Liposuction: Extracellular Fat Removal Promotes Proliferation

The construction of daughter cells requires duplicating the macromolecular biomass of the parent. Anabolic metabolism converts raw carbohydrate and amino acid material into protein, nucleic acid, and lipid building blocks required for new cells. In particular, the membranes that surround cells and organelles require significant amounts of fatty acid precursors to generate phospholipid bilayers. In this issue of Cell Chemical Biology, Yao et al., 2016 report that proliferating fibroblasts and cancer cells scavenge a majority of the membrane precursor fatty acids from extracellular sources. These findings constitute an advance over many previous studies which focused on the role of de novo fatty acid synthesis for lipid production and have implications for the therapeutic potential of inhibiting fatty acid synthesis in cancer.