"Vibrating Mice" Develop Less Fat, Study Shows

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
October 22, 2007

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.

Continued on Next Page >>




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.