66ºF

Heart talks to fat: Medicine's next big thing?

PHILADELPHIA – The human heart beats about 65 times a minute. 

It maintains life and it talks to fat. 

That's according to researchers at Temple University who say the heart releases substances that travel through the blood and communicate with fat cells. That could be a game changer in the fight against obesity. 

What if, just like sending an email, the human heart could transmit a message to the body's fat tissue? 
 
"What that means is the heart releases factors or substances that travel through the blood and communicate at a cellular level with fat cells," said Walter J. Koch, senior investigator at Temple University.  

Researchers say this "conversation" could be the route to reducing obesity.

"By manipulating certain enzymes in the heart, you can manipulate this and change these factors and change obesity when animals are fed a high-fat diet," Koch said.

The study shows that when the enzyme GRK2 is turned up or down, fat adjusts.  

"When that enzyme was inhibited, the animals got super fat and when it was higher, they were lean," Koch said. 

Research mice genetically engineered with the enzyme inhibited only in heart muscle cells did worse than the other mice, who didn't gain as much weight after being fed a high fat diet. 

"These mice with only their heart changed gained about three times as much," Koch said .

"The idea that the heart can communicate with fat and tell it how much energy it's using and things along those lines is very interesting," said Ken Gresham, post doctoral fellow at Temple University. 

A pump we can't live without that might help us in ways we never imagined. 

Koch's lab also found that when mice eat high-fat diets, the enzyme GRK2 increases in the heart, which is the same thing that happens in humans when they go into heart failure.

Researchers say they will continue to investigate what other parts of the body the heart is talking to.