Rodeheffer, Matthew S, PhD
Characterization of brown and beige adipogenesis in vivo
General Research Subject: Obesity
Type of Grant: Junior Faculty
Project Start Date: July 1, 2012
Project End Date: June 30, 2015
Obesity, the excessive accumulation of body fat, results from increased energy in (food intake) over energy out (expenditure). Successful treatments for obesity will likely either limit food intake or increase energy expenditure. It was recently found that adult humans have brown fat, a specialized tissue that burns energy as heat. Discovering ways to increase the amount of energy that brown fat burns in adults may lead to treatments for obesity. Here we propose to identify how the cells that that turn energy into heat in the body are made. We will then figure out how to make these cells burn more of the calories in the food we eat by turning it into heat in the body. Increased burning of energy may be done by creating more tissue that can burn the excess calories in the food we eat or by activating the cells already present to burn more energy, potentially leading to sustainable weight loss without the need for increased exercise.
What area of diabetes research does your project cover? What role will this particular project play in preventing, treating and/or curing diabetes?
Obesity, which is defined as the excessive increase in body fat, is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes and results in a lowered metabolic rate. Even when obese people lose weight, they still maintain a lower metabolic rate that makes it more difficult to keep the weight from returning. Therefore, determining ways to safely increase metabolic rate will aid in maintaining weight loss and prevent or cure obesity-associated type 2 diabetes. It was recently discovered that adult humans have brown fat tissue, a highly specialized tissue that burns lipid by generating heat. This research project focuses on how the energy-burning brown and beige fat cells are formed within the body. By understanding how these cells form, we may be able to develop drugs that will cause more energy burning cells to be produced in the body, increasing the metabolic rate and lowering fat mass and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
If a person with diabetes were to ask you how your project will help them in the future, how would you respond?
This project may lead to the development of drugs that will safely increase metabolic rates, causing more energy to be burned, lowering body fat mass, potentially curing or reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Why is it important for you, personally, to become involved in diabetes research? What role will this award play in your research efforts?
The epidemic of type 2 diabetes is one of the most pressing health concerns in our society. Developing strategies for treating or curing type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance will improve the lives of several millions of people. This award will allow us to use what we have learned in our previous and ongoing studies of white adipose tissue (body fat) and apply our research knowledge to focus on how brown and beige adipocytes are formed in vivo.
In what direction do you see the future of diabetes research going?
Diabetes research is going to become more integrative by continuing to focus on understanding how the many different tissues involved in glucose homeostasis in vivo, such as liver, skeletal muscle, fat and the gut, interact with one another to regulate glucose levels and how these tissues contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
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