Michael D. Jensen, M.D., and his lab study the effects of obesity and how body fat (adipose tissue) and body fat distribution influence health. The regulated uptake, storage and release of fatty acids from adipose tissue play a major role in determining its health effects.
Dr. Jensen's research involves measuring free fatty acid release in order to relate these factors to organ and tissue function. He also measures the uptake of fatty acids into muscle, liver and adipose tissue in order to determine whether preferential uptake of fat can predispose people to obesity or to a specific body fat distribution. The cellular fates of fatty acids and the cell processes responsible for these steps can be assessed.
The long-term goal of Dr. Jensen's research is to understand the regulation of body fat and body fat distribution, in hopes of developing novel approaches to improve the health of humans affected by obesity or excess fat.
Abdominal fat and predisposition to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Jensen is working to better understand how people store fat in their abdomen as opposed to their hips and thighs, and why people who preferentially gain abdominal fat are predisposed to diabetes.
Whether a person gains or loses fat in one body region rather than another is determined by how well the fat cells in those regions take up and release fat compared with other fat cells, how many fat cells there are, and whether new fat cells are being created. Excess release of fatty acids from fat cells can cause metabolic dysfunction muscle, liver and pancreas tissue.
Dr. Jensen's team has developed approaches to measure the relative efficiency of fat storage and release in different body fat depots, whether people create new fat cells or lose old ones, and how fatty acids released from fat cells are metabolized by muscle and liver tissue.
Human studies. Human studies in Dr. Jensen's lab include weight-loss studies, the use of isotope dilution techniques to measure free fatty acid and triglyceride fatty turnover, blood flow measurements, body composition measurements, exercise studies, indirect calorimetry to measure energy expenditure, liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, and ELISA, Western blotting, real-time PCR and tissue enzyme activity measures to understand tissue function. To gain tissue for the latter measurements, researchers in the lab routinely perform adipose tissue and muscle biopsies.
Dr. Jensen's lab has recently developed positron emission tomography tracers to study fatty acid metabolism in humans.
Significance to patient care
By improving understanding of the constitutional, genetic and environmental factors that regulate body fat distribution and tissue fatty acid metabolism, Dr. Jensen's team hopes to provide insights into potential novel therapeutic options to prevent and treat insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Jensen's research into regulation of fat metabolism will help prevent and improve quality of life for patients with obesity, insulin resistance and lipid disorders.
- Senior associate editor, Diabetes journal, 2011-present
- E.V. McCollum Award, American Society for Nutrition, 2013
- TOPS Research Achievement Award, The Obesity Society, 2010