Brown fats are a type of tissue found in mammals and is often abundant in ones that hibernate. It generates body heat, and hyperactive brown fats burn energy instead of storing it. Newborns are born with brown fat to help regulate body temperature, but with age it changes to white fat (the fat that no one wants). Because brown fat burns calories, it can actually allow people (if they had it) to lose weight without going to the gym or changing their eating habits. So what would you do if I told you there was potentially a gene that produces excess brown fat, while also suppressing cancer? It would seem to good to be true.
It has been found recently, that mice with an extra gene of Pten are cancer free. Pten is a tumor suppressor commonly lost in human cancer. When the mice received an extra gene of Pten, they ended up not only being cancer free; they were leaner and ate more than the controls. When the extra Pten gene was turned on, the brown fat cells were also in a sense "turned on." Studies of the isolated brown fat cells in these mice showed that Pten confirmed a boost in these cells. Pten also made it easier for brown fat to form. The brown fat caused the mice to burn more calories than usual, which led to them having less fat in their livers and and were more prone to insulin resistance. Because of this, not only were these mice leaner but they lived longer too. "This tumor suppressor [Pten] protects against metabolic damage associated with aging by turning on brown fat," said Manuel Serrano of the Spanish National Cancer Research Center.
These mice seem to have it all, right? They are more youthful, living longer lives, staying fit while eating as much as they want, all while remaining cancer free. It is said that a small compound inhibitor that mimics the effects of Pten also came with those varied benefits. It's a start, but maybe one day we'll be able to find a drug that does the same for us that Pten does for mice.
Taylor Pirog (2)