Maaike Schilperoort, MSc

Making use of circadian rhythms in brown adipose tissue to combat obesity

The prevalence of obesity reaches epidemic proportions resulting in a growing need for therapeutic strategies to reverse obesity and related disorders. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) importantly contributes to total energy expenditure by burning high amounts of fatty acids (FA) for thermogenesis. Therefore, interventions that aim at increasing BAT activity can be used to combat obesity. Accumulating evidence suggests that there is yet another important player in metabolic health, namely the biological clock. A large cross-sectional study revealed an association between disruption of the circadian (∼ 24 h) rhythm, by exposure to light at night, and obesity. Light input feeds to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus, which subsequently regulates various physiological processes via endocrine and neuronal signals. However, the underlying reason for the development of obesity as a consequence of a disrupted biological clock remained largely unknown. Recently, our group has identified impaired BAT activity as the potential missing link in the association between circadian disturbances and obesity in humans. The goal of our present studies is to investigate the role of circadian rhythmicity in BAT activation, and to evaluate the potency of chronotherapy (i.e. timed therapy using circadian rhythm) aimed to activate BAT in prevention and treatment of obesity and related disorders.

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