Cellular Regulation of Fat Metabolism
There are at least two very distinct types of adipose cells, white and brown, with opposing metabolic actions. White adipose tissue stores excess energy from food as triglyceride (fat). This tissue can expand tremendously in response to excess calorie intake. In obesity, over-burdened fat tissues become pro-inflammatory and contribute to many disease processes including: insulin resistance; type 2 diabetes; cardiovascular disease; and certain types of cancer.
Brown adipose tissue, on the other hand, functions to dissipate chemical energy in the form of heat. By increasing energy expenditure, the activity of brown adipose tissue can also counteract obesity. Strategies that increase the amount or function of this tissue in humans could be a safe and effective treatment for obesity and its associated diseases.
We are examining the regulatory pathways that control the development, differentiation and function of different types of adipose (fat) cells. We have a particular interest in early determination and commitment steps in which mesenchymal stem cells become committed to the adipose versus skeletal muscle or osteogenic cell fates.