Researchers Learn How Some Cells Are Turned Into Fat Cells In The Body

Scientists found a cellular signaling pathway that differentiates certain types of cells into fat cells or smooth muscle cells, informing a potential therapeutic target for obesity.

New York, NY
 – June 14, 2011 /Press Release/  –– 

A new study from Mount Sinai School of Medicine has found that a cellular signaling pathway governs the differentiation of cells into fat tissue or smooth muscle, which lines the vascular system. Engaging this signaling pathway and its capacity to govern cell differentiation has important implications in preventing obesity and cardiovascular disease. The study is published in the June issue of Developmental Cell.

This research, by Philippe M. Soriano, PhD, Professor, Developmental and Regenerative Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Lorin E. Olson, PhD, previously a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory who is now an Assistant Member of the Immunobiology & Cancer Research Program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, is a novel in vivo study to evaluate the signaling activity of the Platelet Derived Growth Factor Receptor-beta (PDGFRβ). The research team used mice that were genetically engineered to have elevated PDGFRβ signaling. They found that elevated PDGFRβ signaling inhibits differentiation of immature mesenchymal stem cells. These cells have the ability to give rise to multiple cell types in the organism, including fat cells and vascular smooth muscle.

"How mesenchymal cells are regulated within the body had been unclear until now. Our research is the first done in animals to show that PDGFRβ is a key regulator of cellular differentiation into fat cells or smooth muscle cells," said Dr. Soriano. "These data indicate that PDGFRβ plays a critical role in determining their cellular fate, providing a new therapeutic target in preventing the onset of diseases like obesity."

The researchers caution, based on their previous research published in Developmental Cell, that some types of chronic activation of PDGFR receptors may result in tumor formation. Therefore, signaling events further in the differentiation process may be better therapeutic targets. More research is needed to better understand how PDGFRβ regulates mesenchymal cell differentiation and the immune system’s response to that activity to help identify treatments for cardiovascular and obesity-related diseases.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

About The Mount Sinai Medical Center

The Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses both The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Established in 1968, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is one of few medical schools embedded in a hospital in the United States. It has more than 3,400 faculty in 32 departments and 15 institutes, and ranks among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institute of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report. The school received the 2009 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Mount Sinai Hospital, founded in 1852, is a 1,171-bed tertiary- and quaternary-care teaching facility and one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital among the nation's best hospitals based on reputation, patient safety, and other patient-care factors. Nearly 60,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients last year, and approximately 530,000 outpatient visits took place.

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