Broadly, adipocytes have been divided into white and brown fat cells. White fat cells are specialized to store chemical energy, and brown fat defends against hypothermia and obesity through thermogenesis. Recent data suggest that there are two distinct types of brown fat: classical brown fat and “brown-like” fat cells that emerge in white fat tissues and have a gene expression pattern distinct from either white or brown fat. We are working to understand beige fat cells with a goal of developing new treatments for metabolic disorders.
The profound health consequences associated with obesity emphasize the importance of developing effective therapeutic interventions. My work focuses on a recently identified form of fat cells, so-called “beige cells.” Genetic manipulations that create more of these fat cells in mice have strong anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects, and we are exploring potential new medicines that could have the same effect.
The paper "Beige Adipocytes Are a Distinct Type of Thermogenic Fat Cell in Mouse and Human" was one of twelve research articles selected by the journal Cell to be included in the year-end "Best of 2012" special edition. The research also received wide media coverage.
Wu J, Cohen P and Spiegelman BM. (2013) Adaptive thermogenesis in adipocytes: Is beige the new brown? Genes Dev.
Rajakumari S*, Wu J*, Ishibashi J, Hee-Woong L, Giang AH, Won KJ, Reed RR and Seale P. (2013) EBF2 determines and maintains brown adipocyte identity. Cell Metab.
Wu J, Boström P, Sparks LM, Ye L, Choi JH, Giang AH, Khandekar M, Virtanen KA, Nuutila P, Schaart G, Huang K, Tu H, van Marken Lichtenbelt WD, Hoeks J, Enerbäck S, Schrauwen P and Spiegelman BM. (2012) Beige adipocytes are a distinct type of thermogenic fat cell in mouse and human. Cell.