With an outpatient procedure, doctors could give overweight people a metabolic boost Illustration: iStockphoto
It sounds like a medical magic trick. Obese people could have the source of their problemthe type of fat tissue that stores energy and thickens waistlinestransformed into the cure.
Heres how the wizardry would work. An overweight person would go to a clinic for a simple procedure in which a small scrap of bad white fat tissue would be sucked out of his belly. Doctors would stick that piece of tissue into an automated bioreactor, where it would get a chemical bath for about three weeks.
Within that machine, it would change into the good brown fat tissue that helps the body burn calories to stay warm. Then the patient would return to the clinic, and the scrap of tissue would be reinserted into his body. This transmogrified tissue would raise his metabolism and help him lose weight, even without the hard work of diet and exercise.Brian Gillette, Ardent Cell Technologies
His team is developing the bioreactor that performs the legerdemain. At first, Gillette imagines that the patients tissue would be placed in a cartridge and shipped to Ardent headquarters, where the bioreactor would do its work. Later on, he hopes to do away with the shipping and handling. Were trying to develop a device thats automated enough to be used in a clinic setting, Gillette tells IEEE Spectrum.
Gillette says the eventual business model could resemble that of inkjet printers. It would be a device thats reusable, with single-use cartridges that handle each patients dose, he says. You set up the device, then youre just ordering up these consumables for each patient.