Human body has white fat on a few organs like stomach, hips and thighs. Infants have far more brown fat than an adult as it plays an important role in helping them stay warm.
White and brown fat both secrete proteins that send signals to the rest of the body. Now, for the first time ever, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have mapped all the proteins that are secreted from adult human white and brown fat cells.
What they discovered is that the two types of fat tissue send very different signals to the rest of the body.
"It's the first time that anyone has studied human brown fat at this level of detail. We have mapped all of the proteins that are secreted from the fat cells and that they use to communicate with other cells.
And there are big differences between them. It's as though they speak very different languages," said Associate Professor Camilla Scheele from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR).
The proteins were mapped in collaboration with the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Protein Research using a technology called mass spectrometry, reported the study published in -- Cell Metabolism.
The research was also carried out in collaboration with other research groups within CBMR as well as researchers from the University of Toronto, Novo Nordisk A/S and Rigshospitalet.
Researchers discovered that brown fat secretes more than 100 proteins that are not secreted by white fat. By categorising the proteins, the researchers were able to form a general picture of the differences between the fat types.
For example, brown fat is better at regulating the cellular immune system, while white fat secretes proteins that allow greater tissue plasticity.
"One of the great mysteries about brown fat is that we are not sure how it is formed. But we have found an interesting clue. One of the proteins that brown fat secretes plays an important role in developing and maturing new brown fat cells to prepare them for producing heat and energy," said Camilla Scheele.