Over the last two decades, obesity has become a major health problem of pandemic proportion affecting millions of adults and children worldwide. Development of obesity often leads to insulin resistance, and over time these metabolic conditions can progress to type 2 diabetes mellitus. Obesity is a complex disease no longer thought to result from simply an excess of caloric intake and lack of physical activity. Obesity is instead described as a chronic, low-grade inflammatory disease. However, the connections between inflammation, obesity and insulin resistance are not clearly understood.
Elena De Filippis, M.D., Ph.D., and her laboratory focus on identifying novel molecular mechanisms and pathways altered in the metabolism of fat. In her laboratory, a translational approach is adopted by conducting research at the Clinical Study Infusion Unit, at Mayo Clinic's campus in Arizona. There, in vivo methods such as the euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamp technique associated with the use of stable isotope to assess insulin sensitivity are used on participants, while human fat tissue samples are collected by performing subcutaneous fat biopsies.
In order to answer basic mechanistic questions related to her interests, Dr. De Filippis' laboratory, in collaboration with James J. Lee, Ph.D., evaluates in vivo metabolism of fat and insulin resistance. Proteomics, next-generation sequencing, flow cytometry and molecular biology techniques are applied on fat samples, adipose tissue and adipocyte cell culture to explore research hypotheses.
- Metabolic interactions between the immune system and fat from various depots of adipose tissue in volunteers with normal weight compared to volunteers who are obese or insulin-resistant
- The specific role of eosinophils in whole-body insulin sensitivity and evaluation of their role in multiple organs such as white adipose tissue, brown adipose tissue and the liver
- Definition of the role of small anti-inflammatory lipid molecules called specialized pro-resolving in fat biology
- Evaluation of the potential role for omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids as modulators of insulin sensitivity in fat tissue
Significance to patient care
Dr. De Filippis' research goal is to identify novel candidate mechanisms for pharmaceutical interventions that in turn could directly impact patient care.