Obesity is one of the most urgent health problems facing humanity. Over 650 million adults worldwide are obese, and in some countries obesity rates are approaching 50%. Excess body weight significantly increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol. These conditions are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the world, and these numbers highlight the critical and unmet need to develop therapies to break the link between obesity and disease.
Obesity is defined by an excess of body fat, which is comprised of white and brown fat. While white fat stores energy, contributing to obesity and its complications, brown fat holds great potential as a therapeutic target, due to its ability to burn energy, resulting in metabolic benefits. By studying a large human cohort, we have discovered that the presence of brown fat is associated with significantly reduced odds of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. These novel findings in humans serve as the foundation for studies in humans and mouse models to identify genetic determinants of brown fat and understand how it conveys its benefits. Here, we have formed a team of eight scientists and physicians from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Spain, and Turkey with distinct and complementary expertise.
The goal of our highly interdisciplinary work is to determine the basis for the metabolic and cardiovascular benefits of brown fat. We will achieve this goal through three aims: (1) investigating genetic regulation of brown fat function, (2) studying the cardiovascular and metabolic benefits conferred by brown fat, and (3) identifying effectors and circulating biomarkers of brown fat function. This research has the potential to identify entirely new therapeutic targets to disrupt the connection between obesity and associated cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
Leducq Network Member Labs
The goal of our highly interdisciplinary work is to elucidate genetic determinants of human brown fat function and the molecular mechanisms underlying its metabolic and cardiovascular benefits. During our first year of funding, our collaborative team has already made significant progress towards these goals.
Sadaf Farooqi, University of Cambridge (UK)
North American Coordinator
Robert Gerszten, Beth Israel deaconess Medical Center (USA)
- Paul Cohen, Rockefeller University (USA)
- Mariona Graupera, Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute (Spain)
- Yuval Itan, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (USA)
- Tayfun Ozcelik, Bilkent University (Turkey)
- Rhian Touyz, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (Canada)
- Thomas Wang, UT Southwestern Medical Center (USA)