Methods and Compositions for Modulating Adipocyte Function

Description: The most common fat cells are white adipose tissue (WAT) cells, which have a thin ring of cytoplasm surrounding a lipid or fat droplet. WAT is found underneath the skin and provides heat insulation, cushioning against shock and jarring, and energy reserves. An average lean person has roughly 20 to 40 billion WAT cells, and an obese person can have up to ten times more WAT than the average lean person. The less common fat cells are the brown adipose tissue (BAT) cells. Energy expenditure for thermogenesis in BAT serves either to maintain body temperature in the cold or to waste food energy. It has roles in thermal balance and energy balance, and when defective, is usually associated with obesity. BAT is usually atrophied in obese animals. The importance of BAT in overall energy homeostasis is underscored by the finding that ablation of BAT in mice results in severe obesity accompanied by insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and hypercholesterolemia. One potential avenue for therapeutic modulation of a person’s weight might be to alter the balance between WAT and BAT cells. Clinical & Commercial Utility: The inventors have discovered that several members of a well-known family of protein factors, the bone morphogenetic proteins, are involved in adipocyte differentiation. Specifically, these molecules, particularly BMP-7, can promote BAT differentiation and inhibit WAT adipogenesis. The invention therefore comprises methods for decreasing fat stores or treating weight gain, by administering a factor from this family, or otherwise upregulating its activity, in order to promote BAT differentiation and inhibit WAT adipogenesis. Other eating disorders might be treated by inhibiting the activity of this family of molecules. The invention also comprises methods of drug screening and diagnostics based on these factors. The research has been published in Tseng, et al. (2008) Nature 454(7207):1000-4. U.S. and European patent applications claiming this invention have been filed.

Type of Offer: Licensing

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