April 27, 2012

The Fat Stopper

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Biology Major Adam Reese may have found the key to keep fat cells from forming. While investigating new ways to combat osteoporosis, with Assistant Professor Anja Nohe, in the University of Delaware science lab, Reese discovered a trigger that he believes turns a stem cell into a fat cell. The trigger, a protein called endoglin, regulates what type of cell an existing stem cell will become.

Reese, with the help of graduate student Joyita Dutta, found the amount of endoglin on a cell's surface indicates whether the cell will become a fat cell or a bone cell.

"What would happen if you could make the cell stop making the protein?" Reese said. "You could affect whether or not it's even a fat cell."

If the amount of endoglin on the cell surface could be decreased, the amount of cells turning into bone would rise, leading to an increase in bone strength, thus ending osteoporosis.

According to Nohe, researchers did not previously know if endoglin was the key controlling the cells' change or if it was just a marker. She believes Reese's data shows endoglin is the driver, and pinpointing that could lead to a cure.

"Now we have a target that we could hit," she said.

The next step is to pinpoint the signaling pathway the cell is using and determine how to block it.

Reese believes the same approach might work with fat cells — decreasing the amount of endoglin on the surface of fat cells could force those cells to transform into other cell types. The resulting treatments could potentially cure obesity.

SOURCE: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, April, 2012