Obesity is essentially a disorder of energy balance, in which intake exceeds expenditure. 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.
Further understanding of beige fat biology is required to determine the role of human beige fat in energy expenditure and its value as a potential target for intervention. The isolation of beige adipocyte opened up a brand new field, we aim to elucidate 1) the molecular regulation of beige fat function, 2) the therapeutic potential of human beige fat and 3) the developmental origin of beige precursors. These ambitious aims will bring together leading laboratories to investigate the function and regulation of this new type of fat cells.
Achievements & Discoveries
Discovered beige fat is a distinct type of thermogenic fat cell
Brown fat is known to defend against hypothermia and obesity through thermogenesis — the conversion of stored energy into heat. I led research that uncovered a new type of thermogenic fat cell, beige fat. Beige cells have a gene expression pattern distinct from either white or brown fat. We also showed that deposits of brown fat previously observed in adult humans are composed of beige adipose cells. The discovery of this cell type opens new therapeutic possibilities, which my lab continues to explore.
- beige and brown fat
- B.Sc., Biology, University of Science & Technology of China (2001)
- Ph.D., Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan (2007)
Honors & Awards
- National Institutes of Health NIDDK K01 mentored research scientist development award (2012)
- Scientist Development Grant, American Heart Association (2012)
- Young Investigator Grant, Human Frontier Science Program (2014)
- Mallinckrodt Grant, Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation (2015)
- McKay — Heart of a Chamption Grant, University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center (2015)
- Junior Faculty Development Award, American Diabetes Association (2016)
- Innovative Basic Science Award, American Diabetes Association (2018)
- Faculty Mentor, U-M Medical School Cellular and Molecular Biology Program
- Faculty Mentor, U-M Medical School Program in Biomedical Sciences
- Member, U-M Center for Organogenesis
- Member, U-M Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center