for National Geographic News
A new study in mice could shake up the fight against fat.
Laboratory mice that spent 15 minutes a day on a vibrating platform developed 28 percent less fat than control mice during a recent experiment.
But forget the ads for waistband-jiggling vibration belts guaranteed to "burn away fat." These mice experienced very subtle, almost undetectable, tremors.
Scientists theorize that as the mice developed, the vibrations mimicked muscle activity and induced their stem cells to develop into bone or muscle cells rather than fat cells.
"We're not burning fat or taking fat mice and making them skinny," said lead author Clinton Rubin, a biomedical engineer at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
"We're taking mice who are growing and ... influencing the decision of stem cells [so that they don't] become fat cells."
(Related news: "Modified Mice Stay Super-Fit -- Without Exercise" [August 25, 2004].)
The finding came in part from research in human spaceflight. Rubin and colleagues are trying to induce stem cells to become bone cells in order to offset the bone loss that results in zero-gravity space environments.
Rubin has also co-founded a for-profit company, Juvent Medical, that is using a similar concept to treat osteoporosis.
The study will appear this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Fighting Fat Before it Appears
The human body needs fat cells, which store food energy for future use.
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