In-depth Investigation into Why Fat Cells from Women and Men Behave Differently
It is a well-known fact that women and men distribute adipose tissue differently; however, it remains unknown how these differences correlate to the development of the metabolic syndrome. Marleen Dommerholt aims to delve more deeply into the subject and investigate what happens inside the fat cells of slim and overweight women and men. The project is funded by the Danish Diabetes Academy to the tune of DKK 1.2 million.
The differences in adipose tissue between women and men contribute to gender-specific differences in the development of obesity comorbidities (diseases in which obesity contributes to the development) including insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.
“However, very little is still known about the functional differences between the fat cells of men and women and the mechanisms that are responsible for these differences,” says Marleen Dommerholt. With a grant from the Danish Diabetes Academy, she is now able to delve more deeply into the issue in a two-year research project.
“In the long term, this could lead to the development of gender-specific approaches to the prevention of obesity comorbidities”
Marleen Dommerholt is a biomedicine graduate from University of Groningen in the Netherlands, where she recently defended her thesis in June 2021. With this grant, she will be ready to embark upon her new research project in Denmark at the ADIPOSIGN obesity research centre at University of Southern Denmark under the supervision of Professor Susanne Mandrup, Centre Director.
“I aim to investigate how gene expression is differently regulated in fat cells from different fat stores from men and women, focussing on the gene expression that is affected by excess weight,” explains Marleen Dommerholt.
By comparing gene expressions from different fat deposits in the body, she hopes to provide new insight into the molecular mechanisms that underlie differences between men’s and women’s fat cells.
“In the long term, this could lead to the development of gender-specific approaches to the prevention of obesity comorbidities,” says Marleen Dommerholt.
Investigating fat cells from slim and overweight women and men
Marleen Dommerholt will collect fat cells from biopsies from women and men who have a BMI below 25 and a BMI above 30, respectively. The biopsies will be taken from the subcutaneous fat depot (around the hips) and from the abdominal fat (called belly fat). She will use the fat cells to analyse gene expression, epigenetics and metabolic differences.
“Using bioinformatic analyses of the gene expression, I will predict functional differences between the fat cells. The most interesting differences will be subjected to further analyses to investigate the significance of these differences,” says Marleen Dommerholt.
She will gain access to human biopsies through a collaboration with Professor Filip Krag Knop, Chief Physician and Head of the Centre for Clinical Metabolic Research at Gentofte Hospital. Marleen Dommerholt will also be collaborating with, and visiting, Professor Madan Babu at the Center of Excellence in Data-Driven Discovery, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Tennessee, United States. Madan Babu is an expert in computational biology and a partner in the ADIPOSIGN centre.
The project will allow me to develop skills in next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics and in applying these advanced technologies to clinical samples. This will provide a unique combination of skills which will be extremely valuable for my future career,” says Marleen Dommerholt.
Tel: +31 64 32 74 113
Danish Diabetes Academy
Managing Director Tore Christiansen
Tel: +45 29 64 67 64
/By Project Manager Nina Jensen, Danish Diabetes Academy