A*Star scientists find faster way to tell good and bad fat apart

Scientists from A*Star have found a faster way to differentiate between good fat and bad fat.

This could speed up high-throughput drug screenings, which are used for discovery of potential drug targets to treat metabolic diseases caused by visceral fat.

Visceral fat is fat that surrounds the internal organs in a body, while subcutaneous fat is found beneath the skin. The difference between both kinds of fats is that the latter is better able to store excess lipids and keep them from leaking into other organs, while the former is less efficient at doing so, resulting in excess lipids entering the blood and other organs. Too much lipids circulating in the body leads to inflammation, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary plaque formation, a major cause of heart attack and stroke.

The researchers from Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), a member of A*Star, are able for the first time to tell apart subcutaneous from visceral fat stem cells by using specific cell markers. Fat stem cells are young cells that mature into fully functioning fat cells.

They looked at 240 different markers on the surface of fat stem cells and discovered two markers called CD10 and CD200. Using an imaging technique to spot these markers individually, the scientists found that subcutaneous fat contained more CD10 while visceral fat had more CD200.

This means that the presence and composition of CD10 and CD200 markers can be used to predict the quality of fat cells.

Using the method developed by SBIC, scientists can identify fat stem cell types and their quality within two or three days, compared to the current two weeks.

Professor Shigeki Sugii, the lead scientist at SBIC's fat metabolism and stem cell group, who heads the study, said: "Markers CD10 and CD200 will be a useful tool for visualising stem cell populations of distinct adipose tissue. Scientists can now diagnose the quality of individual fat cells from healthy or diseased people."

The study was done in collaboration with researchers from the National University Hospital and the National University of Singapore Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

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