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Skin Deep

MOST PEOPLE THINK OF SKIN only as a cover that shields the body from germs. But CALS biochemist James Ntambi has discovered that our largest organ plays a major role in energy metabolism by releasing a chemical signal that tells the body when to burn dietary fats. Ntambi’s lab is now working to identify the factor in skin tissue and pinpoint its place in the body’s metabolic processes. “We have an idea what the factor is, but we still need to show that it gets secreted into the blood to prove that it’s the one,” he says. If he’s successful, the work could open the door to new kinds of weight-loss drugs that would mimic or boost the signal coming from the skin, triggering our metabolism to burn off excess fat.