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Fat Cells Renew Themselves

Posted on Sunday, May 4, 2008 at 03:49PM by Registered CommenterPennino Corp. CEO | Comments1 Comment | References7 References


Fat Cells Renewed Yearly in Process That May Lead to Treatment

By Michelle Fay Cortez

May 4 (Bloomberg) -- About 10 percent of fat cells in the body die off yearly and are replaced naturally, according to Swedish scientists who say that finding ways to interrupt the renewal process may one day offer a treatment for obesity.

Researchers have long thought that the number of fat cells remains constant in adults. The newest study, published today in the journal Nature, is the first to report that some cells break down each year, and that new ones are created that may affect a person's efforts to lose weight.

The number of obese adults has skyrocketed worldwide in the past 25 years. In the U.S., more than one in three adults are obese and another third are overweight, which puts them at increased risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Efforts to develop weight-loss treatments have been largely unsuccessful.

``The results may, at least in part, explain why it is so difficult to maintain the weight after slimming,'' said Peter Arner, senior author of the study and a professor of medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, in a statement. ``The new fat cells generated during and after weight reduction need to fill up their lipids rapidly.''

Fat cells shrink and stretch as people eat more or less, leading to changes in girth. In the study, researchers determined the age of the cells, and confirmed their continued production, by looking for radiation in people born before and after nuclear bomb testing began during the Cold War in 1955.

Radioactive Cells

The scientist examined fat cells taken during liposuction or stomach reconstruction from 35 people, including those who were adults when the testing began. Fat cells that were removed had signs of radioactivity, ``providing a first indication that there is a continuous and substantial turnover'' in adults, the researchers said.

Using computer models, they calculated that about half of a person's fat cells are replaced every 8 years.

``The total number of fat cells in the body is stable over time, because the making of new fat cells is counterbalanced by an equally rapid breakdown of the already existing fat cells,'' Arner said.

The study also included an analysis of fat cells, called adipocyte cells, in 687 adults and compared the findings to earlier work with children and teens. The researchers showed the total number increased through age 20, and remained the same during adulthood regardless of the person's size. That means the difference in the number of fat cells in lean and overweight people is established during childhood, they concluded.

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