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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Associate Professor Brian Drew and Dr Simon Bond

Project summary

Adipose tissue plays an important role in the development of obesity and its related diseases. In addition to its function as a thermal regulator and fat-storage site, adipose tissue is the largest endocrine organ, which regulates metabolism. Adipose tissue modulates these systemic biological functions by producing an array of secretory factors, including extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are capable of exerting a range of metabolic effects. EVs are small lipid bilayer particles produced and released by almost all eukaryotic cells, and since their discovery, EVs have been shown to play a role in regulating a diverse range of physiological functions. EVs can contain fatty acids, proteins and nucleic acids, all of which can be transferred from one cell to another, thereby demonstrating the potential of EVs to regulate physiological functions.

Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) is a highly metabolically active form of adipose tissue that plays a key role in thermogenesis, and has been shown to contribute to maintaining a metabolically healthy phenotype. Although a few brown adipokines have been identified, a comprehensive knowledge of the BAT secretome is limited, and to date, there has been no comprehensive research into EVs secreted by BAT.

Our lab have a unique immortalised primary murine BAT cell line that display all of the cardinal features of in vivo BAT physiology, including the release of EVs. In this proposal, we will use omics platforms to perform a comprehensive study of the molecular composition of BAT EVs, and characterise their ability to influence energy expenditure and glucose homeostasis. A highlight of these studies will be the isotope labelling of EV content. We will utilise innovative EV labelling techniques in normal and activated BAT derived EVs to trace the cellular transfer of biomolecules. This will allow us to identify specific proteins and fatty acids that are transferred via EVs from BAT to other cell types, and to determine what their mechanistic role is. If successful, these outcomes could forge the way for a novel drug discovery platform that may identify potential targets for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

This project is suitable for a MastersHonours or PhD student

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With the rising number of Australians affected by diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the need for research is more critical than ever.

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