Department of Biomedical Engineering
Diabetes and Obesity: A Possible Cause and Eventual Cure?
To discover how cells are affected by diabetic conditions, we study “stem cells,” which exist in the adult body and can become any of a number of more highly specialized cell types. Our research uses adult stem cells from bone marrow.
Under normal conditions, stem cells divide into one bone-forming cell and one stem cell. We have shown that in the presence of abnormally high blood sugar, they instead divide into two fat cells. As a reaction to being in the high-glucose solution, these fat cells synthesize a supporting structure (the “extracellular matrix”) made up of the molecule hyaluronan (HA). The presence of this material causes inflammation and can reduce the animal’s bone mass. The abnormal multiplication of fat cells in the presence of high sugar could be a major cause for the ongoing epidemic of obesity in our society and might also be relevant to bone loss or osteoporosis.
Summary: Dr. Hascall's laboratory investigates a possible reason for the abnormal cell division that causes the formation of fat cells and structures involved in obesity and diabetes in humans. This research may lead to the development of drugs and therapies to prevent the development of obesity.
See also: Hascall Lab