Diabetes Research Foundation grant to Minerva for a study of the impacts of new obesity drugs on adipose vasculature and metabolism

The group of Prof. Vesa Olkkonen (Minerva Institute) was awarded on April 29, 2024, a 25 k€ grant by the Finnish Diabetes Research Foundation for a project addressing the fundamental mechanisms underlying the comorbidities of obesity.

New generation anti-diabetic and anti-obesity drugs are emerging as a promising treatment modality for obesity related metabolic disorders and diabetes, especially analogs of two incretins, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP). Since GLP-1/GIP are known to improve endothelial functions, it is highly possible that the positive effects of GLP-1/GIP receptor agonists on glycemic control and weight loss are in part mediated by changes in adipose tissue vasculature and metabolism.

Our working hypothesis is that the beneficial effects of GLP-1/GIP receptor agonists (semaglutide, liraglutide, tirzepatide) on obesity and cardiometabolic functions are in part mediated via modulation of endothelial cell metabolism and communication with adipocytes, to promote healthy adipose tissue function. The aim is to understand at the molecular level the effects of GLP-1/GIP receptor agonists on adipose endothelial cell metabolism and endothelial cell-adipocyte communication. Moreover, the effects of semaglutide therapy on adipose tissue vasculature are investigated in vivo in human subjects by employing omics data of fat biopsies from patients treated with the drug.

The work is carried out the Minerva Institute through analyses of cultured endothelial cells as well as their cocultures with fat cells. The work involves a number of domestic and international collaborations and forms part of the Ph.D. thesis of M.Sc. Vaishali Chaurasiya, a graduate student in Olkkonen’s group, and is cosupervised by the senior scientist Ph.D. Nidhina Haridas. The present investigation will provide novel insights into the pathogenesis of metabolic disease and open avenues for identifying novel therapeutic targets for obesity and type 2 diabetes.