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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

Nutri-epigenetics of the control of body adiposity: studies in animal models of differing susceptibility to obesity based on nutritional interventions in early stages in life

Lead Researcher:
María Luisa Bonet Piña

Research Centre:
Universidad de las Islas Baleares. Mallorca.


María Luisa Bonet PiñaThe aim of this project is to identify and characterise early programmed nutriepigenetic mechanisms for susceptibility to obesity which are sensitive to certain nutrients or nutritional conditions. Especially interesting is control of the early development of adipose tissue as a determining factor in the bodily composition of adults.

Using animal models, research was conducted into whether nutritional interventions in the early stages of life (known through previous studies to be associated with differences in the tendency to obesity during adulthood) may affect processes and circuits involved in the control of energy homeostasis and corporal adiposity. In particular, whether it is possible to modify the capacity of precursor adipose cells to proliferate and / or to differentiate into cells more or less able to burn fat (instead of storing it), and the methylation state of the promoters of candidate genes associated with the control of nutritional behaviour and other aspects controlling the energy balance. The resulting knowledge may contribute to the scientific support of proposals to improve nutrition during childhood together with maternal nutrition, to prevent obesity and its complications, as well as being of interest in the fields of obesity, nutrition, the biology of adipose tissue and developmental biology, among others.

In line with the planned schedule, the first six months of the project in 2012 centred on the preparation and optimisation of the methodology and the study of the possible impact of early supplementation with leptin on the thermogenic potential of white adipose tissue (WAT). More specifically, BRITE (brown in white) cells have been cultured based on different deposits of TAB from young mice, and the thermogenic protein UCP1 was detected in these cultures using immunofluorescence. Likewise, the concentration of leptin was determined in the milk of mother mice throughout lactation, with the aim of being able to set the amount to be given as a supplement, equivalent to three times what is received in maternal milk, together with the commencement of a first experiment involving the supplementation with leptin during lactation in mice.

Researcher's web address:

María Luisa Bonet Piña

Tenured Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of the Balearics (UIB) and researcher in the Molecular Biology, Nutrition and Biotechnology Laboratory (LBNB) of the UIB. Her research is in the field of Molecular Nutrition and in particular the biochemical mechanisms responsible for weight control and bodily adiposity, alterations to these in obesity and how they interact with nutrients and other food ingredients. She is the author of 80 scientific publications, including 53 papers published in internationally prestigious journals, 2 books and 14 chapters in books, 7 of them international. She has taken part in numerous competitive research projects and others together with industry, including several international studies. She was the Principal Investigator in two contracts in the CENIT-PRONAOS project, financed by the Centre for Technological Industrial Development (CDTI), for the study of molecular keys in the connection between obesity and dysfunction of the bone joints and control of the same by nutrients. She is currently the Principal Investigator for the UIB in the European project SALUS (http://www.salus-project.eu), for the promotion and evaluation of the status of the reformulation of foods for health in Europe, and the scientific secretary for the European BIOCLAIMS project (http://bioclaims.uib.es/), for the identification of early biomarkers of homeostatic imbalance based on nutrigenomics. Promoter and partner in the food technology spin-off company Alimentómica (http://www.alimentomica.com). Lecturer in the Master's degree in Nutrigenomics and Personalised Nutrition offered by the UIB (http://postgrau.uib.es/es/master/MNUT/). Member of the European Nutrigenomics Organisation (NuGO) and the Centre for Networked Biomedical Research in Pathophysiology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERobn).

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