Curing Obesity: How ELNs May Help Scientists Unlock the Secret to Burning Fat


Appetite-suppressing bacteria, environmental factors, and the discovery of beige fat are all ways in which scientists are studying how to combat obesity. ELNs can benefit their research to stop this growing global epidemic.
Image Source: Flickr CC user USDAgov

According to the CDC, 69% of adults in the U.S. are overweight. Current global rates for obesity follow the same trend. It’s estimated that half of the world’s population will be overweight by 2030. Considering the health risks associated with obesity, including increased chances of developing diabetes, scientists have been searching for ways to prevent and treat the condition.

It’s ironic that an answer has continued to elude researchers. We live in an era where digital technology drives fitness and health. People can integrate cell phones, fitness trackers and exercise machines to obtain an overall picture of their health, motivate themselves and communicate with people who have similar goals. If such technology can help people with their fitness and weight goals, then perhaps digital tools like electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) can benefit laboratories working on obesity research.

Creating Appetite-Suppressing Bacteria

The traditional approach to combating obesity involves losing weight via exercise, diet, and appetite suppressants. But what if scientists developed another way? Scientists at Vanderbilt University recently presented research showing that it was possible to engineer gut bacteria to suppress appetite. Rather than taking pills, the engineered bacteria offered a low-maintenance way to affect weight. Even better, studies showed that it could treat obesity in addition to preventing it.

The studies were conducted in mice, however, so the method has a long way to go before seeing use in humans. To reach that end goal, scientists still need to determine the mechanisms by which the bacteria work in controlling appetite and further engineer the bacteria for safe use in humans. Achieving the first task will require experimental repetition and succeeding at the second means adaptability.

With ELNs, users can easily clone protocols and templates. In addition, sometimes numerical results are not enough. Sometimes you need images and diagrams to see the full picture presented by your results. The flexible editor also allows users to incorporate multimedia into their data.

Putting the Chill on Fat

Many people don’t realize that there are two types of fat: brown fat and white fat. Brown fat is associated with regulating body temperature and burning calories. White fat, on the other hand, is associated with the more harmful effects of fat like increased risk of developing diabetes. We have both types of fat, but typically more of the white kind.

However, researchers recently found a way to make white fat behave more like brown fat: lowering the temperature. A six degree temperature drop corresponded to a 6% increase in burning energy. The environmental manipulation also improved glucose metabolism, something that is impaired in people afflicted with diabetes.

Because this research demonstrated how temperature can affect our body’s ability to burn fat, it’s entirely possible other environmental conditions can show similar effects. It’s crucial to keep track of the variables and their results. ELNs make data management simple due to index and search features.

Identifying Beige Fat

In addition white fat and brown fat, there is also beige fat. Beige fat can be found in white fat cells and has the ability to convert it to the energy-burning brown fat. Research at UCSF has shown that it’s possible to isolate beige fat. With this breakthrough, it may be possible to engineer fat cells themselves to combat obesity.

In addition, the creation of a viable beige fat cell culture allows researchers to test molecules and compounds for their ability to activate processes typically associated with brown fat. The ultimate hope is to create anti-obesity drugs that can convert white fat into its energy-burning counterpart.

ELNs May Be the Key to Effective Cures for Obesity

Projects involving drug development are typically large in scope and consist of multiple aims. It’s common for several people to work on separate tasks, ranging from cell assays to in vivo studies. ELNs have collaborative tools that let colleagues share data across a project’s various aims. Researchers can view all results, allowing them to glimpse the bigger picture as it unfolds in real time.

The quest to end obesity isn’t an easy or simple one. It requires approaching the issue on multiple fronts. But with digital assistance like that offered by ELNs, the cure may be closer than we think. Would your research benefit from template cloning, improved data management and collaborative tools? Visit our website to learn more about the BIOVIA Notebook today.

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