Morphing stem cell may hold secrets to reducing obesity

A type of stem cell that morphs into fat cells may hold secrets to reducing obesity, a major public health problem. A University of Nebraska, Lincoln engineer's research to understand that process may one day lead to therapies to control obesity. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are simple, self-regenerating cells capable of turning into a variety of specialized cell types, including bone, skin, muscle and fat. Studies show that one biological process causing obesity is an increase in MSC differentiation into fat cells, a process called adipogenesis.

"This project aims to understand how MSCs choose their fate," Jung Yul Lim, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, said. "If we can inhibit in some way the MSC adipogenesis, it may be a treatment method for obesity." Lim's preliminary research has found that "stretching" the cells suppresses adipogenesis. By seeding cells onto an elastic membrane, Lim can apply a mechanical stretching force to the cells. Then he waits to see what they do.

Provided by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln

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