News of Note—Heating white fat to treat obesity; New clue to neurodegenerative diseases

Local heat therapy to treat obesity?

Heating fat as an obesity treatment may sound like pseudoscience, but researchers at East China Normal University have early findings that local heat therapy could be a promising strategy. The team used nanoparticles that could be heated up by near-infrared light. When applied to lipid-storing white fat in mice, the therapy could activate “beige fat,” which comes from white fat, and turn it into energy-burning “brown fat,” the team described in a study published in Cell. The team also observed a similar thermo effect in humans that suggested browning of beige fat. In mice fed a high-fat diet and treated with the therapy, the animals showed reduced body weight, improved insulin sensitivity and less liver fat. The process is dependent on a protein called HSF1, as mice engineered to lack HSF1 failed to enjoy the metabolic benefits, the researchers showed. (Release, Chinese)

A common thread among neurodegenerative diseases

Unusual aggregation of protein tangles is a key hallmark shared by many neurodegenerative diseases, including the beta-amyloid clumps in Alzheimer’s disease and alpha-synuclein in Parkinson’s disease. An international team led by scientists at Columbia University found a new type of fibril formed by a protein called TMEM106B in postmortem brain tissues from patients with several neurodegenerative diseases, according to a new study published in Cell. This protein is a component of lysosomes and endosomes, which are supposed to clean up waste in cells. The prevalence of the TMEM106B fibrils and their position suggest they may play a role in initiating or accelerating neurodegeneration, the researchers hypothesized.  (Release)

Improving on S1P modulators for better multiple sclerosis drugs

S1P modulators have a proven record of treating multiple sclerosis, but they still come with unwanted side effects. In a new study published in Nature Communications, a team led by researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center dug into the structural features of Novartis’ next-generation S1P drug Mayzent (siponimod) as it interacts with the S1P1 receptor and another unintended target, the S1P5 receptor. They also examined its ability to avoid binding to other S1P members. The scientists believe the information could help guide the design of next-generation multiple sclerosis drugs and other lipid-based drugs for autoimmune diseases. (Release)