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Scientists identify a new target against obesity

This is Science Today. With more than 30 percent of American adults currently classified as significantly overweight, the war against obesity is starting to feel like a losing battle. But researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are trying to change that with a novel mechanism for combating obesity.

Kajimura:      So far, all the anti-obesity drugs are either inhibiting appetite or inhibiting lipid absorption in the gut - essentially all the drugs are to repress energy intake but there's no drug that actually increase energy expenditure.

Narrator:       Dr. Shingo Kajimura has a solution to that - brown fat. This is different from white fat, which stores excess energy and accumulates when you gain weight. Brown fat, on the other hand, is full of mitochondria, and uses energy to produce heat for your body.

Kajimura:      The idea is if we can understand the difference between white fat and brown fat, can we convert the cell fate from white fat to brown fat so the overall idea, very simplified, is to engineer fat cell fate to fight obesity.

Narrator:       Kajimura's lab is working to identify pharmaceutical agents to engineer this cellular switch. This would be the first time anyone has attempted to fight obesity by actually increasing energy expenditure. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.