Obesity is a major public health challenge for the 21st century. Worldwide, more than 2.8 million people die each year from being overweight or obese, but there are no effective drugs to control the condition.
Our research is tackling the epidemic from a new angle by investigating the potential of different types of fat tissue (‘adipose tissue’) to protect patients from the serious metabolic consequences of obesity such as insulin resistance and adult-onset diabetes.
To do this, we are studying the anatomical distribution of fat, its ‘expandability’, hormone production, and ability to burn energy to produce heat. We are also studying the inflammatory properties of fat and their link to chronic disease.
We are particularly interested in brown and beige fat, tissue used by animals to burn calories during hibernation. We are investigating whether, if we increase the distribution and activity of this fat tissue in humans, we can increase energy expenditure and reduce body weight.
We are one of the few research groups in Australia studying adipose tissue at the molecular level, using tissue samples collected from surgical patients through our collaborations with St Vincent’s and Westmead Hospitals.