Sunday, May 20, 2012

Grape compound may block the formation of fat cells

Purdue University researchers have come up with the ability of a compound known as piceatannol (see structure)  to help prevent the formation of mature fat cells by blocking the pathways needed for their growth. Piceatannol is an analog of resveratrol, found in grapes and other fruit, which is converted to piceatannol in humans following its consumption.

Purdue assistant professor of food science Kee-Hong Kim and his associates tested piceatannol in cultured preadipocytes, which are immature fat cells. These cells pass through several stages before reaching maturity over a ten day or longer period. "These precursor cells, even though they have not accumulated lipids, have the potential to become fat cells," Dr Kim explained. "We consider that adipogenesis is an important molecular target to delay or prevent fat cell accumulation and, hopefully, body fat mass gain."

Dr Kim's team found that piceatannol bound to the preadipocytes' insulin receptors during their initial stage of fat cell formation, which blocked insulin's ability to control cell cycles and activate genes necessary for the further stages of adipogenesis. "Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells," Dr Kim stated. "In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis."

"Our study reveals an antiadipogenic function of piceatannol and highlights insulin receptor and its downstream insulin signaling as novel targets for piceatannol in the early phase of adipogenesis," the authors conclude.

Dr Kim hopes to test piceatannol in an animal model as well as find a way to prevent the compound from degrading so that enough is available to the body to prevent fat gain. "We need to work on improving the stability and solubility of piceatannol to create a biological effect," he added.

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