Different biological processes in fat tissue are an important for the development of obesity and associated co-morbidities such as type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer. The group studies these changes using, e.g., microarray technology examination of fat tissue biopsies collected from patients who have undergone bariatric surgery or dietary intervention. This technology makes it possible to identify changes in the expression of all known genes, which may give indications of which biological processes that are important for the development of obesity and metabolic disease. Interesting factors that we identify from patient samples are studied further in different fat cell models in order to determine their role in the development of fat cells. Previous studies have found that the expression of genes that code for certain homeobox transcription factors is reduced in obese individuals and that their expression increases in connection with weight loss.
The stem cell project will give the group an opportunity to study these mechanisms in more detail, also in cells differentiated from mesenchymal stem cells in fat tissue. The group will focus on factors with important for the development and activation of 'brite' or 'beige' fat cells. The traditional thinking has been that the body has white fat cells that store energy and energy expending brown fat cells. In recent years, a third type of fat cell has been identified, called 'beige' or 'brite' ('brown in white') fat cells. Brite fat cells share certain characteristics with the brown fat cells, such as an increased number of mitochondria that consume energy. Identifying factors that regulate the development of 'brite' or 'beige' fat cells may prove to have a great potential in the treatment of both obesity and type 2 diabetes.