A Michigan study finding critical molecular events in the origin of fat cells may lead to better understanding of such diseases as obesity and diabetes.

The study found a hormonal cocktail routinely used in the lab induces a key genetic switch in the transition from fat-cell precursors to full-blown fat, researchers at University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute report in the September Cell Metabolism.

The body needs fat cells, both as a storage depot for fuel and as cells that sense hormonal and energy status and, in response, secrete hormones that maintain whole-body energy balance, said study author Alan Saltiel. “However, you don’t want too many, big fat cells. It’s a careful balance, and many diseases are associated with either extreme.

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