Generally speaking, men tend to store fat in the belly while women are prone to store more fat on the hips and thighs. These actually produce the classic “apple” and “pear” shapes. According to previous studies, people who carry more weight around the bellies are more likely to develop diabetes and heart diseases than those who store fat on hips and thighs. But why the diversity of the places for fat accumulation can produce different shapes?
A recent new study seemed to provide a clue for this question. In the study they found that gene Plexin D1 appears to control both where fat is stored and how fat cells are shaped. Researchers in this study employed zebrafish model because they are transparent for much of their lives, which can help the scientists observe how fat was distributed differently between animals that had been genetically engineered to lack Plexin D1.
Scientists used chemical dye and fluorescently stained all fat cells. They found that the mutant zebrafish had less visceral fat than those still have Plexin D1. To know how these findings related to metabolic disease, the researchers done a further study. They put the zebrafish on a high-fat diet. A few weeks later, they found that the differences in fat distribution is more obvious. Then they did a glucose tolerance test to see how their bodies responded to sugar. It turned out that the mutant ones did a better job of clearing sugar out of their bloodstream and seemed to be protected from developing insulin resistance.
To test if this works the same in human bodies, scientists in this study analyzed human patient samples and they found that individuals with type 2 diabetes had a higher level of Plexin D1.
This study provided a new angel for the research of diseases like diabetes and heart diseases. However, further study is still needed to transfer these finding into practical applications.