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UT Obesity Research Center

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Focus Areas

The Obesity Research Center has three major focus areas: Basic Science; Population Research; and Clinical Interventions.

Basic Science (Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms, Genetics and Genomics)

Basic ScienceThis area investigates the cellular, molecular, physiological and genetic bases for obesity using both cell culture models and a diverse set of monogenic and polygenic animal models of obesity (rodents, birds, swine, companion animals and horses). The emphasis is on systems genetics and translational genomics and many faculty across different disciplines are already engaged in collaborative research.  Strong expertise exists on campus in the areas of obesity, adipocyte biology and endocrinology, glucose and lipid metabolism, immunology, nutrient-gene interactions, imaging, systems genetics, proteomics, statistical/ genomics  and genetics s and emerging  metabolomics. Access to clinical samples through collaborations with UT Medical Center provides opportunities for translational applications to human disease and use of state of the art immunology and imaging labs. The overarching goal is to develop an understanding of molecular mechanisms linking alterations at the cellular level to metabolic abnormalities in humans. Faculty in this area come from Animal Science, Plant Science, Nutrition, Veterinary Medicine BCMB, Microbiology, Psychology, Graduate School of Medicine , engineering and others.

Faculty Involvement
Key words:
 Adipocyte (fat cell) biology and endocrinology; nutritional genomics; systems genetics; statistical genomics; immunology; animal models of obesity, insulin resistance and metabolic disorders (small and large animals including rodents, swine, bovine, equine and canine models).

Population Research

Population HealthPopulation-based research is the study of obesity in large groups of individuals.  One area of research is the epidemiology of obesity.  This involves observational studies of obesity rates, determinants of obesity, and co-morbidities in large populations.  Another branch of population-based research is community interventions.  In these studies, scientists examine the effects of large-scale efforts to prevent or treat obesity in large groups (communities).  While the population effects are typically much smaller than those seen in response to individually tailored interventions, they are still important because they reach a larger number of people. Faculty in this area are from Kinesiology, Ag Economics, Economics, Nutrition, UT Extension and other units.

Faculty Involvement
Key words:
Epidemiology of obesity; secondary data analysis of national survey databases including NHANES, NHIS, and BRFSS; community interventions and economics of obesity and health.

Clinical Interventions

Clinical InterventionsUT faculty are engaged in research on prevention and treatment of obesity.  Much of this research involves behavioral interventions aimed at promoting healthier eating habits and increasing the levels of physical activity performed, with change in body weight status as the key outcome variable.  In its simplest form, the dynamic energy balance equation says that the rate of change in body weight is influenced by the rate of calories taken in minus those that are expended.  However, recognizing that obesity is a multi-faceted problem, one of the goals of the center is to bring together faculty from many disciplines to design and implement effective programs for weight loss and maintenance of weight loss.  Faculty in Nutrition, Kinesiology, UT Extension, Social Work, Psychology, Plant Sciences, Engineering and other disciplines are involved.  With UT medical Center in close proximity to campus, there are ongoing collaborations with the Department of Surgery and Medicine and access to state of the art Imaging Labs.

Faculty Involvement
Key words:  
behavioral interventions randomized controlled trials (RCT), assessment of food intake and physical activity, lifestyle interventions.