Fat cells can sense sunlight—not getting enough increases metabolic syndrome risk

phys.org | 1/21/2020 | Staff
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Yes, fat cells deep under your skin can sense light. And when bodies do not get enough exposure to the right kinds of light, fat cells behave differently.

This discovery, published Jan. 21, 2020, in the journal Cell Reports, was uncovered by scientists at Cincinnati Children's who were studying how mice control their body temperature. What they found has implications far beyond describing how mice stay warm.

Study - Exposure - Kinds - Cells - Materials

The study shows that light exposure regulates how two kinds of fat cells work together to produce the raw materials that all other cells use for energy. The study authors go on to say that disruptions to this fundamental metabolic process appear to reflect an unhealthy aspect of modern life—spending too much time indoors.

"Our bodies evolved over the years under the sun's light, including developing light-sensing genes called opsins," says Richard Lang, Ph.D., a developmental biologist and senior author of the study. "But now we live so much of our days under artificial light, which does not provide the full spectrum of light we all get from the sun."

Lang - Systems - Group - Cincinnati - Children

Lang directs the Visual Systems Group at Cincinnati Children's and has authored or co-authored more than 120 research papers, including many related to eye development and how light interacts with cells beyond the eye.

"This paper represents a significant change in the way we view the effects of light on our bodies," Lang says.

People - Wavelengths - Light - Gamma - Radiation

Many people understand that certain wavelengths of light can be harmful, such as gamma radiation from a nuclear bomb or too much ultraviolent light from the sun burning our skin. This study from Lang and colleagues describes a different, healthy role for light exposure.

Despite the fur of a mouse, or the clothing of a person, light does get inside our bodies. Photons—the fundamental particles of light—may slow down and scatter around once they pass the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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