Discovering A Protein That Blocks Cells From Becoming Fat Cells

Dr. Richard Phipps PhD Department of Environmental Medicine and Flaum Eye Institute, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, New YorkMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Richard Phipps PhD
Department of Environmental Medicine and Flaum Eye Institute,
School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Obesity has risen dramatically over the past 30 years in the United States and throughout the world. Obesity increases morbidity and mortality by increasing health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Thus, obesity is one of our greatest challenges worldwide. Our laboratory has been studying a protein called Thy-1 for several decades. Until now its’ true function was unknown. The main finding from our research is that when cells express this protein on their surface, they are inhibited from becoming fat cells. We show in a mouse model system that mice, which lack Thy-1, and given a high fat diet, increase weight much faster than mice that express Thy-1. These mice that lack Thy-1, also have increased levels of many proinflammatory mediators in their blood. In human cells, those that express high levels of Thy-1 are blocked in their ability to become fat cells, unlike the human cells from different tissues that do not express Thy-1. Thus, the main finding is that learning how to manipulate Thy-1 expression could lead to reduced fat cells and reduced fat production. Not only is this an important finding for obesity, but there are many human diseases that are caused by excess fat production in organs, such as, the orbit of the eye, the liver, and the bone marrow.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: A new key protein has been discovered that is a master controller of fat cells and fat production. These results also suggest that different human beings have a diverse expression of Thy-1 on cells, and the levels of Thy-1 might predispose certain people to weight gain. Also, it’s possible that Thy-1 expression varies as we age and if Thy-1 decreases with age, this would lead to an unwanted accumulation of fat.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We are currently searching for existing drugs and new chemical compounds that influence Thy-1 expression and could be used as anti-fat therapies. Our long term goal is to develop safe, new methods for controlling unwanted fat cell production in disease states and general obesity.

Citation:

Thy1 (CD90) controls adipogenesis by regulating activity of the Src family kinase, Fyn
Woeller CF1, O’loughlin CW2, Pollock SJ1, Thatcher TH1, Feldon SE2, Phipps RP3.

FASEB J. 2014 Nov 21. pii: fj.14-257121. [Epub ahead of print]

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