Back to basics: Researcher takes a closer look at hormone secreted by fat cells

September 16, 2010 By Sathya Achia Abraham

Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine researcher and clinician Edmond P. Wickham III, M.D., is examining how fat cells may directly contribute to health problems related to being overweight.

Prior to 1995, it was believed that fat tissue was just an area for storage, but researchers now know that it is an active, endocrine organ secreting many different hormones and substances into the blood that can contribute to the development of health problems.

Through a National Institutes of Health Career Development award, Wickham, an assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, is examining adiponectin, a hormone secreted by fat cells that packs a beneficial punch - it has anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory properties.

For two years, Wickham has been looking at alterations in this hormone in children and adolescents to determine how these alternations may possibly contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and the initial vascular damage that can lead to future cardiovascular disease.

Although adiponectin is made and released into the blood by the , levels of this beneficial hormone are often low in patients who are overweight or obese.

According to Wickham, low levels of adiponectin can already be seen in children and adolescents who are obese, said Wickham. Furthermore, using an ultrasound to image the of obese adolescents, previous research has shown that their blood vessels are already going through changes that would predict there is ongoing damage even though they are many years away from developing clinically significant cardiovascular disease.

“Unless something changes, the damage will continue,” Wickham said.

Fortunately, levels of adiponectin appear to increase with weight loss and improved physical fitness, said Wickham. Moving forward, Wickham and his team hope to learn more about specific ways that raising levels of adiponectiin may prevent or reverse evidence of vascular damage early in life.

“Understanding how adiponectin helps the body repair damaged blood vessels could lead to the development of novel therapies to prevent incipient cardiovascular disease in children and young adults, as well as new treatment modalities for established cardiovascular disease,” he said.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers question lifelong immunity to toxoplasmosis

December 8, 2016

Medical students are taught that once infected with Toxoplasma gondii—the "cat parasite"—then you're protected from reinfection for the rest of your life. This dogma should be questioned, argue researchers in an Opinion ...

Key regulator of bone development identified

December 8, 2016

Loss of a key protein leads to defects in skeletal development including reduced bone density and a shortening of the fingers and toes—a condition known as brachydactyly. The discovery was made by researchers at Penn State ...

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.