Researchers in the laboratory of Professor Christian Wolfrum from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology-ETH in Zurich, consistently ranked by all major World University rankings among the top universities worldwide, managed to discover for the first time a mechanism to convert the white (bad) fat cells into brown (good) fat cells in a living organism. Among the team of scientists is Greek Aliki Perdikari.
The scientists did their research using mice as model organisms, and their findings provided important new knowledge on the origin of brown fat cells, which is a prerequisite for the development of successful anti-obesity therapies.
According to Science Daily, two types of fat cells can be found in mammals and hence in humans: White fat cells function mainly as highly flexible energy stores which are filled in times of calorie abundance. The fat is stored in the form of lipid droplets, which are mobilized when energy is needed. Diametrically opposed in function are the so-called brown adipocytes: These cells specialize in burning energy in the form of fat and sugar to produce heat. New-born babies possess substantial amounts of brown fat and utilize it to maintain body temperature. Since it was recently shown that brown adipocytes also exist in adult humans, research has focused on understanding how brown adipocytes are formed. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to increase brown adipocyte number and activity in obese humans, allowing them to burn excess calories and thus reduce weight.
Perdikari studied at the Faculty of Biology, School of Science, in the National and Kapodestrian University of Athens and continued her post-graduate studies in ETH Zurich, where she is now a PhD student at the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health ETH Zurich (PhD program Systems Biology of Complex Diseases).