Can Brown Fat Win the Battle Against White Fat?

Sawsan Elattar, Ande Satyanarayana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


A rapid growth in the overweight and obese population in the last few decades suggest that the current diet, exercise, awareness or drug strategies are still not effectively restraining the obesity epidemic. Obesity results from increased energy intake, and the body's energy balance shifts towards energy abundance. Therefore, current research is focused on developing new strategies aimed at increasing energy expenditure. As a result, brown adipose tissue (BAT) is receiving tremendous attention since the major function of BAT is to dissipate energy as heat. For example, mouse models that have increased BAT activity or increased numbers of brown-like adipocytes within the white adipose tissue (WAT) are lean and protected from obesity. Alternatively, mouse models that lack BAT activity are more susceptible to age and diet-induced obesity. However, a significant loss of BAT mass during the natural growth process in humans has created enormous challenges in effectively utilizing this tissue to increase energy expenditure. New strategies are primarily focused on expanding the BAT mass and/or activating the existing BAT. In this regard, recent finding that expression of early B cell factor-2 (Ebf2) reprograms the white pre-adipocytes into brown adipocytes is a significant break-through in developing BAT-mediated strategies to treat obesity. Here we review the major biological functions of WAT and BAT, which play critical but opposing roles in the energy spectrum, energy storage versus energy expenditure, and we evaluate whether activation and/or expansion of BAT is practically achievable to treat obesity in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2311-2317
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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