Fighting Obesity, One Fat Cell at a Time
Overeating causes us to store more energy as fat. Eventually, if we continue to overeat, we can develop Type 2 diabetes and other illnesses.
Dr. Tommy Nilsson, Canada Research Chair in Proteomics and Systems Medicine is studying how small spheres of fat inside fat cells, otherwise known as lipid droplets, form. When we eat more food than we need, lipid droplets eventually fill each and every fat cell, until other cell types have to start holding lipid droplets. When this process happens in a duck’s liver, it forms the well-known delicacy foie gras. In humans, it leads to Type 2 diabetes, liver damage and, eventually, death.
When lipid droplets form, they are contained by small vesicles, or sacs, that can carry liquid. Nilsson is examining what these vesicles do and exactly how these lipid droplets are consumed. He is also studying how stored fat cells can be converted into heat, as well as how to determine genetic dispositions for obesity.
Nilsson’s work will lead to the development of a food supplement or more effective pharmaceuticals to deal with the increasing problem of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and other related diseases.