Sigrid Jusélius Foundation awarded a 3-year research grant to Minerva for obesity research

The group of Prof. Vesa Olkkonen (Minerva Institute) was awarded on March 14, 2024, a 3-year grant (65 k€/year) by the Sigrid Jusélius Foundation for a project for a study of the fundamental mechanisms underlying the comorbidities of obesity.

Obese white adipose tissue is characterized by enlarged size (hypertrophy) of adipocytes/fat cells, chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, fibrosis and reduced capillary density which may cause tissue hypoxia. The working hypothesis of the present project is that the intercellular communication between the adipocytes and endothelial cells fails in obesity, resulting in defective angiogenesis and perfusion of the tissue, which in turn trigger the inflammation and insulin resistance. The aim of this study is to understand at the molecular level the disturbance of adipocyte-endothelial cell communication in obesity, and the role of this disturbance in the development of comorbidities such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

The work is carried out at the Minerva Institute, and fat biopsies of normal weight and obese human subjects are obtained from the Jorvi hospital. The work involves analysis of both fat and endothelial cells isolated form the biopsies, as well as experiments with cultured fat and endothelial cell models. Moreover, the functional impacts of the diabetes/obesity drugs semaglutide, liraglutide and tirzepatide on the communication between fat and endothelial cells are assessed. The study involves a number of domestic and international collaborations and forms the framework 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 obesity and open avenues for identifying novel therapeutic targets for obesity and its comorbidities such as type 2 diabetes.