The Effect of Follistatin on the Browning of Fatty Tissue in Obese Mice

Kavindra Sahabir ‘21

L0060083 Bioengineered obese mouse, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1998
Fig.1: Obese mice such as this one were used to understand how white fat tissue can be converted into brown fat tissue that has positive effects on the body rather than negative ones.

A major myth in health and fitness circles is that all fat and fatty tissue is “bad” and contributes to obesity. While it is true that fatty tissues such as white adipose tissue play a major role in the development of obesity, diabetes, and related diseases, brown adipose tissue, another type of fatty tissue, can actually stimulate a decrease in body weight as well as improve insulin sensitivity. A study led by Haoyu Li explored the possibility of “browning” the white adipose tissues of obese mice by injecting follistatin, which has been shown to induce the browning of white adipose tissue.

In this study, 30 mice, all 4-6 weeks old, were put on a diet high in fat for 8 weeks, to stimulate obesity. Then, they were split up into 2 groups of 6 mice, with one group being injected with follistatin once per day for one week, and the other group as a control. The mice were then sacrificed and studied to understand more about their body weight and body fat content after one week of experimentation. 

At the end of the experiment, it was found that the follistatin injected mice showed significant decreases in body weight and body mass index compared to the mice of the control group, with variables such as food intake showing no significant differences between the two groups. The mice which were injected with follistatin also showed fewer levels of blood glucose, suggesting improved glucose metabolism in that group. 

The results of this study suggest that the increased presence of follistatin in the body does indeed lead to the browning of white adipose tissue, and leads to improved insulin sensitivity and a decrease in body weight. There are still many unknowns, however, including the effects of follistatin on the body after one week and whether or not it would need to be constantly used to achieve results. Despite these unknowns, follistatin does, according to the researchers, have the potential to be used as a treatment for metabolic diseases such as obesity sometime in the future.



  1. H. Li, et al., Intraperitoneal administration of follistatin promotes adipocyte browning in high-fat diet-induced obese mice. Public Library of Science, (2019). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220310
  2. Image retrieved from:,_Aberdeen,_Scotland,_1998_Wellcome_L0060083.jpg

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