Rana K. Gupta
Proper control of energy and nutrient homeostasis is crucial for growth, development, and the prevention of metabolic disease. Adipose tissue plays a critical role in the regulation of energy balance, functioning as a metabolic sensor that controls energy storage, energy utilization, and food intake. Pathological adipose tissue distribution and adipocyte dysfunction are intimately linked to obesity and obesity-associated diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The growing epidemic of obesity and rising costs associated with treating metabolic disease has increased the urgency for understanding all aspects of adipose tissue biology, including how adipocytes are formed.
Our laboratory studies the transcriptional pathways controlling the establishment and maintenance of adipocytes. Specifically, our emphasis is on adipocyte progenitor, or “preadipocyte”. This is a cell type poorly defined, whose regulation is incompletely understood. We are actively pursuing a growing hypothesis that preadipocytes represent specialized vasculature-associated mesenchymal progenitor cells within adipose tissues. Our goal is to understand how these cells form during development and how they are triggered to differentiate into mature adipocytes in obesity.
Understanding the biology of adipose precursors will shed tremendous insight into the developmental origin of fat tissue and physiological regulation of adipose tissue distribution. The ultimate goal of our research is to use our understanding of adipocyte development to generate novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of obesity and metabolic disease.