A team from East China Normal University has found that local hyperthermia therapy, which involves applying heat to a small tissue, can help treat obesity and improve metabolic disorders safely.
The research paper Local Hyperthermia Therapy Induces Browning of White Fat and Treats Obesity was published in the scientific journal Cell on March 4. The paper is a joint effort by the life science school from ECNU and Hu Cheng, a researcher in metabolic disease genetics from the Sixth People's Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Mammals, including humans and mice, have white, brown, and beige fats with different functions in body. White fats store heat while brown ones burn to create heat. Meanwhile, beige fats function as white fats when held still but produce heat like brown ones when stimulated.
People typically rely on intensive exercise to trigger the burning of fat. Such an activity carries a risk of adverse side effects, especially for those who are overweight.
It is already known that beige fat can be stimulated by cold temperatures and nervous systems, but these methods bring risk of adverse side effects including cardiovascular diseases. As such, the team led by researchers Ma Xinran and Xu Lingyan from the ECNU turned their attention to heat therapy.
Following experiments on mice, the researchers found that stimulating beige fat, which can be found on the sides of the neck, upper back, near the collarbone, and around the spine, can enhance sugar absorption and metabolism.
This method does not harm the central sympathetic nervous system and immune system, and causes no obvious side effects, said Ma, an author of the paper.
The research team said the method may be used to treat obesity in a safe and efficient manner as well as improve metabolism disorders such as insulin resistance and fatty liver.
However, further research and clinical experiments are required to determine the efficacy of such a method on the human body, Ma added.
Ning Guang, deputy dean of Shanghai's Ruijin Hospital and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the research presented a convenient, safe and effective method in the future for obesity treatment, contributing to the development of related wearable devices possible to prevent chronic metabolic diseases.
Jia Weiping, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and an expert from the Sixth People's Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said the discovery has laid a research foundation for facilitating clinical drug development and precision treatment.
Source: China Daily