Changing cell structure may fight obesity

Researchers at University of Queen Mary London found that reducing the size of cilia, hair-like structures, on stem cells prevents them from transforming into fat. This is the first study to discover that altering the length of cilia can influence the production of fat cells by stem cells.

The tiny hairs on cells, known as primary cilia, helped prevent the production of fat cells from stem cells once their length was slightly regulated. The process of turning calories into fat includes adipogenesis, the differentiation of stem cells into fat cells. The researchers discovered that the length of the cilia is associated with the movement of proteins onto the cilia during adipogenesis. Once the researchers restricted the elongation of the cilia in stem cells from a human bone marrow, the production of new fat cells ceased.

Researchers noted that the lengths of cilia are affected by inflammation, pharmaceuticals, and mechanical forces. In the future, researchers are hoping to begin a new type of treatment of targeted cilia-therapy for conditions such as obesity.

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