Using Stem Cells to Lose Fat--Without Diet or Exercise

Manipulating stem cells in bone marrow could lead to innovations in fat loss, University of Colorado study finds


Losing fat could one day mean manipulating stem cells--with no diet or exercise needed.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado, have found that doctors could one day manipulate stem cells to rid the body of fat cells that can cause disease. These stem cells, which are cells that can be multiplied into various types of cells, reside in the bone marrow (tissue inside bones).

In this study, people who had received bone marrow transplants from donors were found to have cells from the new bone marrow right under skin near the belly button. The DNA of the blood found at this location didn't match the study subjects' DNA, but instead that of their donors at a rate of 35 percent.

"This paradigm highlights the possibility of new strategies to prevent and reverse fat-related chronic disease by controlling the production of different types of fat-storing cells," study co-author Dwight J. Klemm, a professor at the University of Colorado Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine said in the press release.

While the body has healthy fat cells, some fat cells can also lead to fat-related diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers, the study authors said. A 2013 study found that healthy fat cells generate new cells in order to store fat, while unhealthy fat cells break down, and fat can gather around the organs as a result. This could be why there are some obese people who do not have chronic disease.

This study builds on research that suggests healthier fat cells can be generated by targeting stem cells that produce fat cells in the first place.

Previous research on mice showed that fat cells originating from stem cells in the bone marrow can hinder the body's insulin response and cause inflammation. Insulin is the hormone released by the pancreas in order to carry sugar from the blood stream into the organs for use.

Without proper insulin production, the body can develop diabetes, a disease that can result in blindness, kidney failure and heart disease. Inflammation is the body's response to threats, however, excess inflammation can lead to disease, including heart disease.

"This research may help unravel many of the mysteries associated with weight gain, weight loss, and the effects that excessive fat has on the body," Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., and Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal said. "The more we learn about this interesting discovery, the closer we are toward shutting down the harmful effects of fat cells at the source."

This study was published March 1 in the FASEB journal.

Funding sources and disclosures were unavailable at time of publication.