Scientists conducting studies in mice have found a way to identify the progenitors of cells that make up fat tissue (Daquinag AC et al. Cell Stem Cell. 2011;9:74-86). These fat stem cells—adipose stromal cells (ASCs)—are responsible for driving fat expansion that can lead to obesity.
Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston isolated a peptide that specifically homes to ASCs and used it to purify the corresponding ASC surface receptor. They found this to be a fragment of decorin, a protein regulating cell adhesion, proliferation, and migration. A search for proteins that bind to this fragment led them to resistin, a protein secreted by fat cells and a key regulator of metabolism, for which the receptor has been unknown.
Hampton T. Fat Stem Cells. JAMA. 2011;306(5):480. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1088