Leyla Raiani
May 11, 2012

Scientists identify protein that stimulates brown fat to burn calories

Scientists have identified a protein, BMP8B, which regulates the activation of brown fat in both the brain and the body's tissues. Unlike white fat, which functions primarily to store up fat, brown fat (also known as brown adipose tissue) burns fats to generate heat in a process known as thermogenesis. The research, led by scientists at the University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories at the Institute of Metabolic Science, discovered that the protein BMP8B acts on a specific metabolic system (which operates in the brain and the tissues) to regulate brown fat, making it a potential therapeutic target. The experiments showed that when mice lacked the protein BMP8B they found it more difficult to maintain their normal body temperature. They also became much more obese than normal mice, particularly when fed a high-fat diet. Additionally, when the researchers treated brown fat cells with BMP8B they responded more strongly to activation by the nervous system.