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Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard

Nutrition-related disease states such as diabetes and obesity may be treatable eventually by the use of therapies at the cellular and molecular levels. The Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard seeks to establish a research environment which encourages the approach to defining common clinical nutrition research problems using the most sophisticated technology and scientific knowledge available.

Activation of IRF1 in Human Adipocytes Leads to Phenotypes Associated with Metabolic Disease

Chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to obesity-related insulin resistance. In obesity, adipocytes are an important source of inflammatory cytokines, but the mechanisms of adipose inflammation in obesity remain unclear. To determine transcriptional regulators of adipose inflammation, Cowan and colleagues compared transcriptional profiles of primary human adipocytes from obese donors with those from in vitro-derived adipocytes that were genetically identical to the primary adipocytes.

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Recent Work by NORCH Investigators

With support from a NORCH Pilot and Feasibility Grant, Dr. Lauren Feichtner and others recently reported that gestational weight gain affects the composition and diversity of the infant gut microbiome. Using data and infant fecal samples from 84 infant-mother pairs, four distinct microbiota profiles were identified: Bifidobacterium-dominant, Enterobacter/Veillonella-dominant, Bacteroides-dominant, and Escherichia-dominant. Infants whose mothers had more weight gain during pregnancy were less likely to have a Bacteroides-dominant profile (risk ratio 0.83 [95% CI 0.71-0.96] per 1kg of gestational weight gain). Further, a larger amount of gestational weight gain predicted lower bacterial diversity.

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Adipose Tissue-Derived miRNAs Regulate Gene Expression in Other Tissues

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate translation and thereby contribute to the regulation of metabolic processes. Dr. Kahn and others recently demonstrated in Nature that adipose tissue is an important source of circulating miRNAs. Mice with an adipose-tissue-specific knockout of the miRNA processing enzyme Dicer (ADicerKO) demonstrated substantial reductions in levels of circulating miRNAs, and fat transplant from wild type animals largely restored miRNA levels.

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Recent Work by NORC-H Investigators

Metformin is best known as first line treatment for type 2 diabetes. In recent years it has become clear that metformin has anti-cancer properties and prolongs lifespan, but the mechanism of these effects remains elusive. NORC-H investigator Dr. Alexander Soukas and colleagues determined that metformin kills human cancer cells and prolongs lifespan in the roundworm C. elegans by a common mechanism involving the nuclear pore complex and a gene of unknown function ACAD10. Wu L et al., Cell, December, 2016).

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Upcoming Events!

Check out our Events page for more information about the following upcoming events of the NORCH!

*6/17: Blackburn Course in Obesity Medicine
*7/17: 18th Annual Symposium: Surgical Treatment of Obesity

Please Cite the Grant!

Our work as a Center is measured in part by the contributions we make to published science. Please cite the National Institutes of Health Grant P30 DK040561 in all publications that results from the use of NORC-H services or resources.

Contact Information

Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital,
55 Fruit Street,
Boston, MA 02114
phone 617-724-9109