Kristin Stanford, PhD, assistant professor in The Ohio State University College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, has been awarded a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study how a thermogenic tissue might enhance heart function and metabolism to combat cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States and worldwide. Almost one in four Americans dies of cardiovascular disease. The fact that the incidence of this disease is rapidly increasing makes it more important than ever to elucidate potential therapeutic treatments.
The new grant will fund a study investigating how brown adipose tissue (BAT), a thermogenic tissue that dissipates chemical energy as heat, can influence heart function. BAT has a high capacity for oxidizing glucose and lipids — substances that, with proteins and carbohydrates, constitute the main components of living cells. This makes BAT a potential target to decrease plasma glucose and lipids, thereby protecting against obesity and its comorbidities, including cardiovascular disease. BAT can also act in an endocrine fashion, releasing secreted proteins and lipids. These secreted molecules are called “batokines,” and can communicate with other tissues, including the heart.
Previous studies, including work from Dr. Stanford’s lab, have shown that increasing the amount of BAT by transplantation improves metabolic health and reduces obesity and can increase glucose uptake into the heart. One goal of the new research is to determine if and how increasing BAT exerts endocrine effects on the heart to enhance heart function and metabolism. Researchers also hope to elucidate this novel role for BAT, and the mechanism through which it affects the heart, which could provide innovative therapeutic options to combat cardiovascular disease.
Co-investigator for the project is Mark Ziolo, PhD, professor in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology.