Humans store excess dietary fat in specialized called “adipocytes.” Adipocytes are found underneath the skin and deep within the core of our bodies, and this excess fat is a source of health problems. However when placed in artificial culture, adipocytes do something completely unexpected and remarkable.
Cultured human adipocytes dump their fat globules and begin to dedifferentiate. Such cells are called “dedifferentiated fat ” cells or DFAT cells for short. DFAT cells result from the subjection of mature adipocytes to a so-called “ceiling culture,” and these DFAT cells can revert to a more primitive phenotype and gain the ability to divide in culture and expand (see Matsumoto T, et al, J Cell Physiol. 2008;215(1):210-22). DFAT cells can be subjected to differentiation protocols and can produce skeletal muscle (Kazama T et al Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008;377(3):780-5), bone cells (Oki Y et al Cell Struct Funct. 2008;33(2):211-22), smooth muscle cells that can be used to repair a laboratory animal’s bladder (Sakuma T et al J Urol. 2009l;182(1):355-65), and beating heart muscle cells (Jumabay M et al Cardiovasc Res. 2010;85(1):17-2). Heart muscle cells made from DFAT cells can even treat the hearts of laboratory animals that have had a heart attack (Jumabay M, et al J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2009;47(5):565-75).
Gene expression studies of DFAT cells have shown that they no longer express the genes particular to adipocytes, and also express many new genes necessary for cell growth and division. Thus DFAT have truly undergone a significant change (Ono H et al Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011;407(3):562-7).
DFAT cells have yet to be used in a clinical trial, but several preclinical trials have been conducted with them, and phase I clinical trials are certainly not far away.