Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute may have the best news for couch potatoes since the invention of the Thighmaster — a newly identified hormone that changes white fat cells into brown fat cells, reports Technology Review's Karen Weintraub. The naturally occurring hormone "acts like exercise on muscle tissue," Weintraub says, by burning calories and improving the body's ability to process insulin. In their new study published in Nature, the team shows that the hormone — named irisin after the Greek messenger goddess Iris — is found in both humans and mice. "It pushes cells to transform from white fat — globules that serve as reservoirs for excess calories — into brown fat, which generates heat," Weintraub says. The researchers speculate that it may serve as an evolutionary response to cold, as it triggers shivering. In the study, mice that were given irisin lost weight within 10 days of treatment. "Irisin also appeared to reduce the damage done by a high-fat diet, protecting mice against diet-induced obesity and diabetes," Weintraub adds. Researchers are hopeful that the discovery could lead to the development of therapeutics for the treatment of diabetes, obesity, and possibly even neuromuscular disorders.
So Much for that Gym Membership
Jan 13, 2012