New Canadian Fat Lab

As obesity is fast overtaking tobacco as the leading risk factor for heart disease, a new laboratory for studying the biology of fat cells (adipocytes) is opening its doors at the Henderson Research Centre.

McMaster University's Arya Sharma, professor of medicine and Canada Research Chair in Cardiovascular Obesity Research and Management, says: "Fat cells are now recognized as highly active cells, that make a host of molecules contributing to metabolic disease, inflammation, and cancer."

The new fat cell lab, with its state-of-the-art equipment, will support cardiovascular obesity research and management. Researchers will be able to examine fat biopsies and grow fat cells taken from obese patients with obesity-related health problems, like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. They will be able to look at the molecular aspects of the cells - watching for the changes in gene expression.

"We are very excited about this lab, which will allow us to address a number of important questions related to obesity at the level of individual cells and molecules," says Sharma.

Recently, Sharma was the recipient of a New Emerging Teams (NET) grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. The NET brings together established and emerging cardiovascular and obesity investigators involved in basic science, clinical research, and population studies.

"This lab will be a great resource for anyone interested in working with fat cells," he says.

Research lab specialist, Mahmood Akhtar, Ph.D, agrees: "Although links have been made between obesity and disease, we need to learn more about what's happening at the molecular level, the genetics of obesity. If we know what the changes are and when it happens, we can target the links for preventative purposes."

Akhtar says that among the new equipment in the lab is a bio-analyzer, which allows researchers to access real-time information about the fat cells they are studying. This 'lab on a chip' saves hours and hours of work.

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