AUG 11, 2021 8:29 AM PDT

Beige Fat Cells Protect the Brain from Dementia

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

‘Beige’ fat reduces inflammation in mouse brains, and may provide protection from dementia. The corresponding study was published in Nature Communications by researchers at Augusta University in Georgia, US. 

There are two main types of fat cells. White fat cells convert excess energy from glucose into lipid droplets made from triglycerides. They are found in the body’s connective tissues, under the skin and in the abdominal cavity (visceral fat). 

Brown fat cells are the second type of fat cell. They contain more mitochondria than white fat cells. This means they are able to produce heat to maintain body temperature when in cold conditions. These cells are located between the shoulder blades, the neck, along the spinal cord, and above the collarbone. They can also be found around the vital organs. 

Beige fat cells incorporate features from both white and brown fat cells. They behave similarly to brown fat cells, although are found in areas housing white fat cells. Exercise and exposure to cold are thought to lead to the ‘beiging’ of white fat cells. 

Previous studies have found that mice with lower levels of beige fat develop diabetes more quickly than those with higher levels when on a high-fat diet. Studies have also shown that transplanting subcutaneous fat into obese mice can improve their metabolic profile within a few weeks. 

In the present research, scientists thus wanted to understand whether such transplants could improve cognitive problems too. 

For the study, they examined two groups of male mice. One group was genetically modified to prevent subcutaneous fat from beiging. The other group developed normal levels of beige fat cells. After being fed a high fat diet for four weeks, the researchers noted that those that had been genetically altered displayed accelerated cognitive dysfunction in testing. 

The brains and bodies of these mice also presented strong, rapid inflammatory responses to the high-fat diet, including the activation of microglial cells, immune cells in the brain, which can further increase inflammation and lead to conditions such as dementia. 

The researchers next transplanted subcutaneous fat from young, lean, healthy mice into the visceral fat compartment of otherwise normal but obese mice that had developed dementia-like behavior after eating a high-fat diet for 10 to 12 weeks. 

These transplants improved the mice’s memory and restored synaptic plasticity in their hippocampus, a part of the brain used for learning and memory. These changes, say the researchers, happened due to the transfer of beige fat cells. 

"If we can figure out what it is about beige fat that limits inflammation and maybe what it is about beige fat that improves brain plasticity, then maybe we can mimic that somehow with a drug or with cold-stimulated beiging or even taking out some of your subcutaneous fat when you are young, freezing it and giving it back to you when you are older," said Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan, lead author of the study. 

The researchers now intend to see how implanting subcutaneous fat into different areas of the body may affect health outcomes. They also want to explore these findings in female mice. 

 

Sources: Nature CommunicationsThe ConversationMayo ClinicScience Daily

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
MAR 28, 2022
Neuroscience
Fearful Memories Stored in Sensory Cortex, not Amygdala
MAR 28, 2022
Fearful Memories Stored in Sensory Cortex, not Amygdala
Fearful memories from the past may be stored in the sensory cortex, and not the amygdala, as long thought. The correspon ...
APR 01, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabigerol's Potential to Trigger Neuroregeneration
APR 01, 2022
Cannabigerol's Potential to Trigger Neuroregeneration
Cannabigerol (CBG) has significant potential to treat neurological disorders according to a recent study published in Ph ...
MAY 07, 2022
Neuroscience
Learning From Our Mistakes, With These Neurons
MAY 07, 2022
Learning From Our Mistakes, With These Neurons
People can hone skills by practicing, and as that happens, our brains are able to recognize the mistakes we're makin ...
MAY 11, 2022
Neuroscience
Poor Eyesight Skews Cognitive Test Results
MAY 11, 2022
Poor Eyesight Skews Cognitive Test Results
 Undiagnosed eyesight problems may impair the scores of those over 50 years old in cognitive tests. The correspondi ...
MAY 13, 2022
Health & Medicine
Oldest Brain Surgery in North America
MAY 13, 2022
Oldest Brain Surgery in North America
A hole in the forehead of an old skull from northwest Alabama may not seem significant, but this is no ordinary hole. Th ...
MAY 19, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Proteins That Seem to Cause Migraines are Found
MAY 19, 2022
Proteins That Seem to Cause Migraines are Found
Researchers have recently identified several proteins that circulate in the blood, and are thought to cause migraine hea ...
Loading Comments...