Sheila Collins, Ph.D., professor in the Metabolic Signaling and Disease Program at Sanford-Burnham at Lake Nona, was awarded a Novo Nordisk Diabetes Innovation Award of $975,000 over two years. The program period will begin on January 1, 2013. The grant will help Collins and her team conduct research into how hormones made in the heart act on fat cells to regulate metabolic processes that can stimulate energy expenditure and weight loss.
The Novo Nordisk Diabetes Innovation Award Program was launched in 2011 and is very competitive, with more than 100 proposals submitted for funding this year. The goal of the award program is to translate science into new therapies, helping diabetes and obesity patients receive better treatment and increase their chances of living more rewarding lives.
“The Novo Nordisk Diabetes Innovation Award allows us to analyze how certain receptors in a fat cell can be activated to encourage the transformation of regular ‘white’ fat cells to ‘beige’ or ‘brown’ fat cells,” explains Collins. “We have reason to believe that ‘beige’ and ‘brown’ fat cells consume more energy than ‘white’ fat cells. Therefore, this research could form the basis for future clinical efforts to take advantage of this new biology that we are uncovering.”
As part of the award program, Collins and her team will test the hypothesis that activation of the natriuretic peptide receptor-A (NPRA, also called NPR1) in fat cells will foster the generation of so-called beige fat cells with increased energy consumption. Beige fat cells have an abundance of mitochondria, the power plants of the cell that turn nutrients into energy and generate heat. By generating beige fat, the body will consume more energy, potentially leading to weight loss. Collins and her team suggest that the activation of NPRA could be a route to treating obesity and thus lower the risk and prevalence of obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Over 60 percent of the population can be classified as overweight or obese, placing them at risk for a large number of chronic diseases, including insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes,” said Collins. “There is a critical need for novel approaches to treating obesity—in particular, agents acting to increase energy expenditure would be valuable. This award will allow us to continue our research into ways of increasing cellular energy expenditure.”
Headquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with 89 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care.