Meeting Theme: Molecular Mechanisms, Treatment, and Disparities of Obesity


The "Molecular Mechanisms, Treatment, and Disparities of Obesity" annual meeting theme includes research on the biochemistry of addiction, insights into the treatment and prevention of obesity, and a look at the hormones and enzymes involved in obesity. The meeting will be held April 9-13, 2011, in Washington, D.C. (Titled "Examining Obesity" in print version.)


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Craig E. Cameron C. P. David Tu

Obesity is a major public health concern. It is caused by high calorie intake and low levels of physical exercise. If Americans continue their current lifestyles, 43 percent of adults may be obese in 10 years. The extra weight increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer. Obese individuals incur 30 percent more in health care expenses than their normal-weight peers. The cost of obesity may represent as much as 21 percent of health care spending by 2018. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of Americans from the ages of 18 to 34 who are considered obese has jumped from 6 percent in 1987 to 23 percent in 2010. A whopping 35 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24 are unqualified for the military because of physical and medical issues. Thus, obesity causes not only work force productivity problems but also homeland security issues. The prevalence of obesity also has increased significantly in global populations. According to a 2005 estimate by the World Health Organization, at least 400 million adults were obese worldwide. The organization projected that this number would nearly double by 2015.1

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Obesity is the result of an imbalance between energy intake and energy use. This excess energy is stored as fat when the glycogen storage has been saturated. Excessive fat can cause major changes in gene expression, enzyme function, regulatory schemes, hormone patterns and metabolism in different tissues and organs, which, in turn, can lead to the development of various diseases.

The diversity of human genomes (gene-gene interactions) and cultures (gene-environment interactions) contributes to racial and ethnic differences in the regulation of body weight and the subsequent development of obesity due to further energy imbalance. Because adipose tissue and adipokines play a central role in body weight control, we need to understand the signaling pathways that link excessive energy storage to the development of disease.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Minority Affairs Committee has organized an obesity theme titled “Molecular Mechanisms, Treatment and Disparities of Obesity” for the 2011 annual meeting.

System Physiology Modeling

Molecular Mechanisms, Treatment and Disparities of Obesity

Sponsored by the ASBMB MAC

Session: Frontiers in Obesity Research
System Physiology Modeling of Human Metabolism and Body Weight Change, Kevin D. Hall, National Institutes of Health

Brown Adipose Tissue: Quantification and Therapeutic Potential, Aaron M. Cypess, Joslin Diabetes Center

The Biochemistry of Addiction, Nora D. Volkow, National Institutes of Health

Session: Treatment, Prevention and Complications of Obesity
Dietary Garlic Prevents Development of or Alleviates Obesity and Diabetes in Mice, C. P. David Tu, Pennsylvania State University

Cardiac Complications of Obesity,
E. Dale Abel, University of Utah School of Medicine

Should We Have a One-size Fits All Approach in Obesity Prevention? Jose R. Fernandez, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Session: Enzymes, Hormones and Obesity
Role of Stearoyl-CoA Desaturase in Energy Metabolism, James M. Ntambi, University of Wisconsin

The Adipose Renin-angiotensin System, Obesity and Insulin Resistance: Dissecting the Complex Interactions, Naima Moustaid-Moussa, University of Tennessee

Adipokin Regulation of Energy and Glucose Homeostasis, Rexford S. Ahima, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

In a session titled “Frontiers in Obesity Research,” speakers will focus on system physiology modeling of human metabolism, brown adipose tissue and the biochemistry of addiction. Kevin D. Hall (National Institutes of Health) will discuss system physiology modeling of human metabolism and body weight change. Aaron M. Cypess (Joslin Diabetes Center) will talk about functionally active brown adipose tissues in adult humans and their relationship to age, body mass index and other variables. Nora D. Volkow (National Institutes of Health) will discuss the biochemistry of addiction and its conceptual link to our understanding of obesity.

Treatment, Prevention and Complications

In another session, titled “Treatment, Prevention, and Complications of Obesity,” C. P. David Tu (Pennsylvania State University) will talk about a mechanism of garlic’s action and show that dietary garlic supplement prevents the development of or alleviates obesity and diabetes in four mouse models. E. Dale Abel (University of Utah School of Medicine) will discuss cardiac complications of obesity in the context of mitochondrial oxidative stress and insulin signaling pathways in the heart. Jose R. Fernandez (University of Alabama at Birmingham) will talk about different approaches in obesity prevention in light of genetic influences that contribute to racial differences in obesity and diabetes.

Enzymes and Hormones

In a final session titled “Enzymes, Hormones and Obesity,” James M. Ntambi (University of Wisconsin-Madison) will address the cellular and physiological roles of stearoyl-CoA desaturases in energy metabolism from the perspectives of tissue-specific and isoform-specific expressions of this gene family and in the context of preventing obesity and insulin resistance. Naima Moustaid-Moussa (University of Tennessee) will talk about the complex interactions among the adipose rennin-angiotensin system in relation to hypertension and obesity. And Rexford S. Ahima (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine) will address the adipokine regulation of energy and glucose homeostasis in the context of central regulation of body weight and energy balance. 


1. Statistics in this paragraph were taken from an article by Nanci Hellmich that appeared in USA Today, titled “Rising Obesity Will Cost U.S. Health Care $344 Billion a Year.”

Craig E. Cameron ( is the Paul Berg professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Pennsylvania State University. C. P. David Tu ( is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Pennsylvania State University.