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When Identical Twins Are Different

Professor Aila Rissanen, University of Helsinki, Finland

Professor Aila Rissanen, University of Helsinki, Finland

This year’s prestigious Fredrich Wassermann Award of the European Association for the Study of Obesity presented at the 22nd European Congress on Obesity goes to Helsinki’s Aila Rissanen, Europe’s grande dame of obesity research.

I have personally known Aila for as lo as I have been involved in obesity and there is much in her work and approach to obesity that has stimulated my own thoughts on this issue.

In her acceptance address, Aila chose to focus on her work in BMI-discordant twins (among the many topics she has worked on) due to the remarkable insights into the “natre-nurture” discussion that this model offers.

Indeed, it is extremely rare to find genetically identical twins, who differ in body weight (demonstarting just how highly heritable body weight actually is). Thus, body weight in identical twins is remarkably homogeneous not only because of the heritability of weight per se but also due to heritability of weight gain.

Cining the work of her wildly successful trainee Kirsi Pietilainen, Aila described the efforts it took to identify just 30 obesity discordant (weight difference of >10 Kg) identical twins from well over 500 identical twin pairs.

These discordant twin pairs have now been extensively phenotyped with every imaginable laboratory test, measurement and tissue biopsies.

The most consistent difference between the discordant twins appears to be a greater level of physical activity in the leaner twin, which appears to precede the onset of weight gain.  In addition to voluntary physical exertion, there also appears to be a significant difference in fidgeting between the twins.

Compared to their co-twins, the obese twins had greater pro-inflammatory lipid profiles, lower antioxident activity and higher pro-coagulation markers. The reasons for these differences remains unclear.

Finally, Aila provided a brief overview of some of the exciting work that is now going on to further study the differences between these genetically identical but obesity disparate twins – metabolomics, lipidomics, epigenomics and even bacteriomics.

Although any of this has yet to translate to better obesity prevention or management, you never know where these fundamental insights into human biology may lead you.

For know, this is certainly a space I intend to watch.

@DrSharma
Prague, Czech Republic

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Plan Your Personalized Program For The Canadian Obesity Summit Now

Summit15appIf you are planning to attend the 4th Canadian Obesity Summit in Toronto next week (and anyone else, who is interested), you can now download the program app on your mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop, eReader, or anywhere else – the app works on all major platforms and operating systems, even works offline.

You can access and download the app here.

(To watch a brief video on how to install this app on your device click here)

You can then create an individual profile (including photo) and a personalised day-by-day schedule.

Obviously, you can also search by speakers, topics, categories, and other criteria.

Hoping to see you at the Summit next week – have a great weekend!

@DrSharma
Gurgaon, Haryana

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Targeting Gut Inflammation Can Reduce Insulin Resistance?

sharma-obesity-adipose-tissue-macrophageWith all of the recent interest in the gut microbiota as a mediator of systemic inflammation and metabolic disease, it was only a matter of time before researchers would begin targeting pro-inflammatory pathways in the gut to change metabolism.

A proof-of-principle, that this is indeed possible, is presented by Helen Luck and colleagues from the University of Toronto in a paper published in Cell Metabolism.

Using mice models, the researchers not only show that a high-fat diet can alter the gut immune system but also that the chronic phenotypic pro-inflammatory shift in bowel lamina propria immune cell populations is reduced in genetically altered mice that lack beta7 integrin-deficient mice (Beta7null), a driver of gut inflammatory response.

Further more, treatment of high-fat-fed normal mice with the local gut anti-inflammatory agent 5-aminosalicyclic acid (5-ASA), reverses bowel inflammation and improves metabolic parameters including insulin resistance (although it had no effect on body weight).

These beneficial effects are are associated with reduced gut permeability and endotoxemia as well as decreased visceral adipose tissue inflammation.

Moreover, treatment with ASA also improved antigen-specific tolerance to luminal antigens.

Thus, as the authors conclude,

“…the mucosal immune system affects multiple pathways associated with systemic insulin resistance and represents a novel therapeutic target in this disease.”

Clearly gut inflammation both in relationship to gut microbiota as well as response to dietary factors is likely to be a hot topic in obesity and metabolic research for the foreseeable future.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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Obesity In Cardiovascular Disease – A Canadian Perspective

sharma-obesity-exercise2Anyone interested in the issue of obesity and cardiovascular disease may want to get a copy of the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, which includes a number of review articles and opinion pieces on a wide range of issues related to obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Here is the table of contents:

Garcia-Labbé D, Ruka E, Bertrand OF, Voisine P, Costerousse O, Poirier P. Obesity and Coronary Artery Disease: Evaluation and Treatment.

Piché MÈ, Auclair A, Harvey J, Marceau S, Poirier P. How to Choose and Use Bariatric Surgery in 2015.

Valera B, Sohani Z, Rana A, Poirier P, Anand SS. The Ethnoepidemiology of Obesity.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

 

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Social Network Analysis of the Obesity Research Boot Camp

bootcamp_pin_finalRegular readers may recall that for the past nine years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving as faculty of the Canadian Obesity Network’s annual Obesity Research Summer Bootcamp.

The camp is open to a select group of graduate and post-graduate trainees from a wide range of disciplines with an interest in obesity research. Over nine days, the trainees are mentored and have a chance to learn about obesity research in areas ranging from basic science to epidemiology and childhood obesity to health policy.

Now, a formal network analysis of bootcamp attendees, published by Jenny Godley and colleagues in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Healthcare, documents the substantial impact that this camp has on the careers of the trainees.

As the analysis of trainees who attended this camp over its first 5 years of operation (2006-2010) shows, camp attendance had a profound positive impact on their career development, particularly in terms of establishing contacts and professional relationships.

Thus, both the quantitative and the qualitative results demonstrate the importance of interdisciplinary training and relationships for career development in obesity researcher (and possibly beyond).

Personally, participation at this camp has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career and I look forward to continuing this annual exercise for years to come.

To apply for the 2015 Bootcamp, which is also open to international trainees – click here.

@DrSharma
Toronto, ON

ResearchBlogging.orgGodley J, Glenn NM, Sharma AM, & Spence JC (2014). Networks of trainees: examining the effects of attending an interdisciplinary research training camp on the careers of new obesity scholars. Journal of multidisciplinary healthcare, 7, 459-70 PMID: 25336965

 

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