Brown cell-booster turns off the fat switch

That the human body contains good fat and bad fat has been known to scientists for some time, but mechanisms that allow us to convert one into the other have been a little harder to come by. In search of such a trigger, scientists have uncovered a switch in the fat cells of mice that helps them shed the extra pounds. The good news? That very same switch is present in humans.

Science has teased us with a so-called fat switch for years. White fat cells, which are the culprits behind obesity, store the energy that we don’t use in what we see as love handles and beer bellies. Brown fat cells on the other hand, play the useful role of burning fat to produce heat and keep us warm. Research into how we can trick the body into generating more brown fat cells has produced some promising discoveries, like hormones that mimic the effects of exercise, for example.

Now a team of international scientists has unearthed yet another fat switch candidate. Working with mice, the team discovered an especially high number of receptors in brown fat cells that cling to a protein called Gq. They found that boosting the activity of the Gq protein led to a decrease in population and quality of the brown cells. Conversely, blocking its activity allowed more brown fat cells to prosper.

The team also investigated the effects on beige fat cells. This third type of fat cell was only discovered in 2012 and, like brown fat cells, has the ability to burn excess energy. The researchers observed that blocking the Gq protein in the beige cells also caused more fat-burning cells to mature. It is on these types of cells that they are pinning their hopes of success.

But there’s a long way to go yet. The studies are described as being in a basic research stage, and any drugs that block the Gq proteins in humans are yet to be developed…“Even in human fat cells, it was shown that brown fat cells can grow much better once Gq proteins were blocked,” says Dr. Alexander Pfeifer…

Lots of folks will be waiting and watching.

Court rules for woman who was shackled while giving birth

Juana Villegas [L] and Maggie Hernandez with her lawyer Elliot Ozment [R]

A federal judge has ruled in favor of a Nashville mother who triggered a national outcry after she was shackled during labor and after giving birth while in custody of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office…

Nine months pregnant, Villegas was arrested July 3 and charged with careless driving and driving without vehicle insurance. She didn’t have a driver’s license. A check of Villegas’ immigration status found she had a previous deportation order to her native Mexico. Her water broke on July 5 and she delivered the baby at 1 a.m. on July 6.

In his decision Wednesday, Haynes wrote that Villegas was “neither a risk of flight nor a danger to anyone,” citing medical testimony. The judge concluded that shackling Villegas during the final stages of her labor and her post-partum recovery violated her civil rights…

She was separated from her newborn son for two days and was not allowed to have a breast pump or cream for lactating mothers in her cell…

The sheriff’s office declined to comment. In combating the lawsuit, it cited expert testimony on the danger of “illegal immigrants fleeing and engaging in illegal activities” to justify shackling the expectant mother to the bed…

Villegas, the mother of four U.S.-born children, has lived in this country for 17 years, returning quickly after a 1996 deportation to Mexico.

The fact of her undocumented status, of course, shouldn’t have had a damned thing to do with lousy treatment by Tennessee sheriffs. I hope the federal court throws the book at these thoughtless representatives of law and order.

Award exposes this year’s best authors of the worst sex

Alastair Campbell’s depiction of a gauche sexual encounter in his debut novel All in the Mind has won him a place on the shortlist for the literary world’s most dreaded honour: the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award.

Campbell would join luminaries including Tom Wolfe, AA Gill, Sebastian Faulks and Melvyn Bragg if he wins the award – a plaster foot – on November 25 at London’s aptly named In and Out club. Run by the Literary Review, the bad sex awards were set up by Auberon Waugh “with the aim of gently dissuading authors and publishers from including unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels”.

The former spin doctor may take heart from the implication that his debut is an “otherwise sound literary novel”. Campbell of course has some earlier practice in depicting sex, having written pornography for Forum magazine under the pseudonym the Riviera Gigolo early in his career, but a passage set on a bench has catapulted Campbell onto the list: “He wasn’t sure where his penis was in relation to where he wanted it to be, but when her hand curled around it once more, and she pulled him towards her, it felt right,” Campbell writes. “Then as her hand joined the other on his neck and she started making more purring noises, now with little squeals punctuating them, he was pretty sure he was losing his virginity.”

But Campbell’s prose is considerably less purple than some of the other contenders for this year’s prize, including new age novelist Paulo Coelho for his novel Brida, in which the act of sex – on a public footpath – is described as “the moment when Eve was reabsorbed into Adam’s body and the two halves became Creation”.

Fun reading. Including, perhaps, the works referenced, eh?