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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

16th national competition for scientific and technical research

The genome and epigenome

Senior Researcher : María Luisa Bonet Piña

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Research Centre or Institution : Universidad de las Islas Baleares. Mallorca


The 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.

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