Now that April is upon us, everyone is (hopefully) gearing up for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting later this month in Boston. Everyone has seen the highlights of the various programming themes, so I won’t explore those here. I do want to highlight some newsworthy items that are of interest to those of us in the lipid research community.
Big news for POPG
One of our premier lipidologists, Dennis Voelker at National Jewish Health, just received a U.S. patent for the lipid POPG (1-palmitoyl- 2-oleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoglycerol), which reduces inflammation and inhibits infection in the lungs, and various related compounds. Dennis has been a leader in lipid biochemistry and has maintained an interest in the lung lipids. Another advance for the clinical importance of lipids!
White, brown — and now beige — fat
Lipids have gotten more colorful. As many of you know, last year Bruce Spiegelman of Harvard Medical School and the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute identified a new fat cell — beige fat! These interesting cells are sort of a hybrid between white adipocytes and brown adipocytes. In adults, these cells are scattered beneath the skin near the collarbone as well as along the spine. These cells were originally identified in 2008, and they now have been shown to be specifically targeted by irisin, which is expressed by muscle cells during exercise. In addition to stimulating the conversion of white fat into brown fat, irisin improves glucose tolerance and stimulates weight loss in obese, prediabetic mice. It will now be exciting to identify the role of beige cells in these mice in diet-induced obesity. Will this be a new therapeutic target for obesity?
The gut microbiome and weight control
Speaking of obesity, interest is increasing regarding the role of those little microbes growing in your gut. Recent studies have implicated the composition of the gut microbiome in playing a significant role in weight gain. The composition of the gut microbiome, which can be influenced by diet, demonstrates a complex system of interactions that plays a role in regulating body weight. So if you’re going to the annual meeting and friends want to go out for lunch, think about yogurt!
And let’s not forget our young’uns
This year’s winner of the Walter A. Shaw Young Investigator Award in Lipid Research is Tobias Walther of the Yale School of Medicine. He will give a talk titled “Cell Biology of Neutral Lipid Storage” at 3:45 p.m. April 23 at the ASBMB annual meeting in Boston. Click here to read more about Walther.
Lipids always float to the top!
Daniel Raben (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of the ASBMB Lipid Division and a professor in the department of biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.