6 November 2015

Markus Heine (postdoctoral fellow) about his work in the RESOLVE project

My name is Markus Heine and I am a postdoctoral fellow at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) in the laboratory of Joerg Heeren. We aim to understand the systemic regulation of energy metabolism in health and disease states. Energy dense lipids are transported in the blood by special carriers that are called lipoproteins. We focus on the metabolism of a special class of lipoproteins, the triglyceride lipoproteins (TRL) that are produced from the liver as well as from intestinal cells after a lipid rich meal. Usually, TRL are processed by professional lipid handling organs, e.g. adipose tissue and muscle. These processes can be altered in disease conditions such as the Metabolic Syndrome in an organ-specific manner, changes that are often associated with the development of severe chronic diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis. In the EU project RESOLVE we try to understand the systemic disturbances in sugar and lipid metabolism observed in individuals with the Metabolic Syndrome. In my project, I am focusing on an adipose tissue that was just recently found to be active in adult humans, the brown adipose tissue (BAT). In contrast to white adipose tissue that stores energy in form of lipids, BAT burns lipids upon cold exposure to generate heat to defend the body against cold. Thus, the activation of BAT may be a good target to treat patients with obesity-associated diseases. To visualize and quantify the fate of lipoproteins under conditions of BAT activation, we have established several nanoparticle-based tools. These technologies are used to define the variables that influence the transport of TRL to their final destinations. One variable is the hormone insulin which is produced after a sugar digestion and mediates the uptake of sugars into different organs. We think that insulin also plays an important role for lipid uptake processes into activated BAT to fill up energy stores. Therefore, we used models to decipher the role of insulin under conditions mimicking the Metabolic Syndrome. The data generated in our laboratory are then used for a computer model called ADAPT, which at the end should help to predict disease development in individuals with the Metabolic Syndrome. Based on the ADAPT model the ultimate goal will be to identify individuals at high risk for the development of a specific, life-threatening disease allowing individualized prevention and treatment of obesity, atherosclerosis and diabetes.