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Ouliana Ziouzenkova, PhD

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Encapsulated fat cells may help promote weight loss

Ouliana Ziouzenkova, PhD, assistant professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, received a one-year pilot award from The Center for Clinical and Translational Science for her research involving “Encapsulated Thermogenic Adipocytes for Obesity Treatment.

Ziouzenkova is looking for a way to make losing weight easier for people struggling with obesity by studying the interaction between three different types of fat in humans: visceral, subcutaneous, and brown adipose tissues.

Visceral fat is dangerous and can lead to harsh health consequences such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. Subcutaneous fat lies underneath the skin and exerts beneficial health effects. Brown fat cells, or thermogenic cells, use fat to produce heat and can protect against obesity; however, in humans the number of thermogenic cells is very limited.

Ziouzenkova’s research team generated capsules filled with thermogenic cells that can be injected into the body to convert visceral fat into heat energy for an extended period of time. Those treated with the capsules become resistant to high fat diets, keeping the body lean. The capsules were developed in collaboration with James Lee, PhD, a renowned expert in cell encapsulation, and Chandan Sen, PhD, associate dean of the College of Medicine and a leader in laser capture microdissection applications.


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Originally, the capsules were injected into mice. The study compared a group of mice on a high fat diet that were given the capsules with a similar group that were not given capsules. The group that were not given capsules gained significant weight every day, while the group that was given capsules gained much less.

Ziouzenkova hopes the study will progress into trials with humans. “We want to burn this fat in the most nontoxic way possible,” she said.

Ziouzenkova foresees a bright future with the development of the capsules. She is awaiting approval for a proposal she submitted to the American Heart Association to create a commercial product to use the capsules as therapy for weight loss.

“These [encapsulated] cells generate heat and function as a healthier type of fat, which should help burn unhealthy fat without a considerable change in lifestyle.”

By Nuala McSweeney, Thursday, December 22, 2011

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