UT Southwestern researchers cite recent advances in underlying causes of rare body-fat disorders

DALLAS March 18, 2004 More than a decade of work conducted by UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas researchers has led to a better understanding of the underlying causes of lipodystrophies disorders characterized by the selective loss of fat tissues, resulting in metabolic complications, such as severe diabetes and high blood cholesterol levels.

By gaining a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that lead to both inherited and acquired lipodystrophies, researchers hope to discover new therapeutic approaches to prevent the loss of fat tissues and prevent or possibly delay the onset of metabolic complications associated with these disorders.

A review article summarizing research spearheaded by scientists at UT Southwestern is published in today's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"We hear about the metabolic complications of obesity all the time, but these complications also occur in disorders of fat cells that cause partial or total loss of fat from the human body the exact opposite of what occurs in obese individuals," said Dr. Abhimanyu Garg, chief of nutrition and metabolic diseases who has been studying patients with lipodystrophies for the past 16 years. "These disorders have not been widely recognized."

Recently, many HIV-infected patients being treated with a class of drugs known as protease inhibitors have developed lipodystrophies, which has raised awareness of these rare disorders.

Improved knowledge of these disorders will have implications to understanding more prevalent disorders that occur as a result of obesity, like diabetes, which affects more than 16 million Americans, Dr. Garg said.

"What we're learning from treating patients with lipodystrophies may also be applicable to obese patients with abnormal fat distribution, who are more prone to complications," Dr. Garg said. "All of these patients are predisposed to diabetes. Some of these patients even develop d

Contact: Amy Shields
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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