Fat . . .
The Ferrante Lab studies fat or in slightly grander and more scientific terms - adipose tissue. Although long viewed as inert "dead weight," adipose tissue is very much alive and in the last two decades has revealed itself to be a complex and critical tissue that contributes to disease and regulates its own mass. Two questions occupy our imaginations in the Ferrante Lab: How is the amount of fat that anyone carries around regulated? How does fat do its job?
What regulates fat mass? - Most people know that trying to lose weight is hard, and even if you succeed in shedding many pounds it is even harder to keep off the excess weight. Though fewer people attempt to gain weight and keep on fat, it seems also to be difficult to keep weight on. Many research groups have studied how the body fights against weight loss with great strides having been made in understanding the response and the central role that leptin plays. However, much less is known about the body's nature ability to fend off excess pounds. The Ferrante laboratory is particularly focused on understanding how the body defends against gaining weight. We believe that the system that defends against weight gain is not simply the converse of the system that defends against weight loss, but rather an evolutionarily distinct set of signals and pathways in which adipose tissue plays a critical role.
What is fat and how does it work? Even in a more basic way, the folks in the Ferrante Lab study how adipose tissue functions - how fat tissue develops, how excess calories are stored and released and how changes in metabolism in the whole body affects adipose tissue. About a decade-and-half ago it was found that obesity leads to the accumulation of immune cells in fat, so that in the most obese individuals more than 50% of the cells in fat are immune derived. The Ferrante Lab has worked to understand how immune cells, and in particular, macrophages contribute to the normal development and function of fat, and in what ways immune cells can have detrimental effects on fat and whole body metabolism.