Mechanisms of Fat Mass Regulation in Females

PI: Matthew S. Rodeheffer, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Comparative Medicine and of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Scientists focusing on obesity thought for many years that it was excessive abdominal or “belly” fat that increased the risks for health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This hypothesis was based largely on evidence that men tend to gain weight in the belly and that overweight men were at a higher risk for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Overweight women were thought to be at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than overweight men because women tended to gain weight under the skin throughout the body. However, recognition that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women as well as men in the United States, and that the obesity epidemic is growing among both genders, has prompted a new look at the nature of obesity.

Dr. Rodeheffer’s hypothesis is that excessive accumulation of all fat, white adipose tissue, in women, both in the abdominal area and under the skin throughout the body, may contribute to the development of obesity-related pathologies such as heart disease and diabetes. One of his primary goals is to identify the cellular mechanisms that control the proliferation of white adipose tissue at the very outset of diet-induced obesity in female mice. Identifying and understanding these mechanisms is highly relevant to everyone’s health, but particularly important for the health of women because they experience greater obesity-related consequences.