Metabolic Disorders

Metabolic Disorders, Obesity and Cancer (MDOC)

The MDOC Program focuses on the storage of energy in cells, release and generation. At the interface of nutrition, hormonal action and mitochondrial biology, we focus on the understanding and modulation of biochemical processes that contribute to obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes, and altered metabolic pathways in cancer or caused by cancer.

Over 1 billion adults are either overweight or obese and more than 150 million adults have diabetes, mostly type 2, driven by obesity-associated insulin resistance. These numbers are expected to increase by 50% by 2025. In Singapore, obesity has increased from 6.9% in 2004 to 10.8% in 2010, and the trend is set to increase. At the other end of the clinical spectrum is undesired weight loss in cachexia or wasting syndrome, which frequently occurs in cancer patients.

In the framework of this programme we shall study the biology of skeletal muscle, white and brown adipose tissue in both mice and men, in advanced in vitro settings, in preclinical animal models in human probands. Members of Biochemistry have developed key technology to generate human brown fat cells from human progenitors. We have the unique capability to bridge single cell heat sensing, via in vitro cell microcalorimetry with Asia-Pacific’s first microcalorimeter (CalScreener) with whole body calorimetry, using candidate substances that we have identified on a nutraceutical discovery platform based on IP-protected strategies to differentiate human progenitors into functional brown adipocytes. Transgenic mouse and human xenotransplantation models together with advanced genomics and lipidomics will allow identifying receptors on brown adipose tissue and its progenitors to understand signalling pathways in brown differentiation and thermogenesis and to evolve therapeutic avenues to modulate brown fat tissue mass and activity to tackle obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cachexia.

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