COBRE in Mesenchymal & Neural
Regulation of Metabolic Networks

Building research excellence in understanding causes of metabolic disease

COBRE in Mesenchymal and Neural Regulation of Metabolic Networks


Project 1:  Regulation of obesity through BMP signaling pathways in brown adipose tissue.  Dr. Aaron Brown

Project significance – Adipose (fat) tissue is specialized into white adipose and brown adipose tissue. White fat stores energy in lipids, and accumulates in obesity and metabolic disease. In contrast, brown fat generates heat from lipid stores, and active brown fat decreases risk of metabolic syndrome. Thus, the balance between white fat and brown fat can determine body weight, fat mass, and risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Because of the natural activity of brown fat to burn calories, it has potential as a therapeutic target to combat obesity and metabolic disease. This project aims to understand how brown fat develops, and which signaling pathways are required for its function.

Mouse mesenchymal stem cells were grown and differentiated into brown adipocytes. This process includes a priming period of growing the mesenchymal stem cells for 2 days, and then inducing adipogenesis using a cocktail of factors that promote the fat phenotype. By day 12 after induction, lipid laden cells have developed. The pictures show cells with multiple lipid droplets, which are stained red in the right panel. This is characteristic of brown fat. The immunoblot below verifies that upon differentiation, cells express UCP1, a marker for brown fat.