Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a novel way to engineer the growth and expansion of energy-burning “good” fat, and then found that this fat helped reduce weight gain and lower blood glucose levels in mice.

The authors of the study, to be published in the journal Diabetes, said their technique could eventually lead to new approaches to combat obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

The researchers used a specifically tailored hydrogel to “scaffold” and control an implant containing stem cells to form a functional brown-fat-like tissue. While white fat — the kind associated with obesity — stores excess energy, brown fat serves as a heat generator, burning calories as it does its job.

“What is truly exciting about this system is its potential to provide plentiful supplies of brown fat for therapeutic purposes,” said study lead author Kevin Tharp, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology. “The implant is made from the stem cells that reside in white fat, which could be made from tissue obtained through liposuction.”

Human babies, which cannot yet produce heat by shivering, have greater stores of brown fat, so-called because it contains high levels of darker-hued mitochondria. It was once believed that brown fat disappears with age, but in recent years, this tissue has been discovered in the neck, shoulders, and spinal cord among adults.

“This is figuratively and literally a hot area of research right now,” said the study’s senior author, Andreas Stahl, an associate professor…

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