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So Much for that Gym Membership

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.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.