South Korean Researchers Discover Method to Transform Fat Cells into Stem Cells for Weight Loss

by Daisy

South Korean scientists have made a significant breakthrough in the fight against metabolic diseases and obesity by finding a way to transform fat cells, or adipocytes, into stem cells. This innovative approach has the potential to reduce appetite, boost energy expenditure, and ultimately lead to weight loss.

The research, led by Professors Suh Jae-myoung and Lim Dae-sik from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Graduate School of Medical Science and Engineering, was unveiled on July 1. Their novel technique focuses on reprogramming adipocytes into stem cells, which promises not only to reduce weight but also to improve overall metabolic health. This method could offer new treatments for metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes.


Adipocytes play a crucial role in storing calories as fat and secreting hormones that regulate various bodily functions. When these processes are disrupted, it can lead to serious health issues such as obesity and diabetes. Despite the potential benefits of controlling adipocyte activity, the exact molecular mechanisms governing these functions have remained elusive until now.


The KAIST research team honed in on the Hippo signaling pathway, a key regulator of organ size, to better understand adipocyte regulation. This pathway includes the YAP and TAZ proteins, whose activity is influenced by food intake and is associated with the size of adipose tissue. The researchers discovered that these proteins are essential for the production of leptin, a hormone that regulates energy expenditure and appetite.


In their study, the researchers used genetically modified mice to deactivate the LATS 1 and 2 genes, which are involved in the activation of YAP/TAZ proteins. By doing so, they observed that continuous activation of these proteins caused adipocytes to revert to a stem cell-like state, effectively reducing their size and weight.

One of the key findings of the study was that smaller adipocytes have a hormonal effect that suppresses appetite. This mechanism differs from traditional weight loss methods that typically focus on increasing calorie consumption through exercise. As the size of the adipose tissue decreased, leptin expression significantly increased, aiding in weight loss. Although leptin was identified over 30 years ago as a regulator of energy expenditure, the mechanisms behind its regulation had remained unclear until this study.

The researchers are optimistic that their discovery of the role of YAP/TAZ proteins in adipocyte regulation could lead to new therapeutic strategies for treating obesity and metabolic diseases. Their groundbreaking findings were published on May 29 in the prestigious international journal Nature Metabolism.

This innovative approach offers a promising new avenue for tackling some of the most challenging health issues related to metabolic diseases and obesity, providing hope for effective treatments in the near future.


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