Adipose Tissue Heterogeneity and Function in the Development of Metabolic Diseases – PHRT


Adipose Tissue Heterogeneity and Function in the Development of Metabolic Diseases

Short Summary

The project aims to develop new strategies to quantify the presence of energy burning adipocytes and their relation to overall adipose tissue composition to develop novel therapies to induce these cells to prevent and treat obesity and its associated metabolic disorders.


In this pioneer application, we will build on the results from the PHRT project entitled: “Targeting the brown fat – Personalized strategies for treatment of metabolism”. We will increase the resolution of the genetic data by performing genome sequencing on patients with extreme metabolic phenotypes with matched transcriptomic and proteomics data. In addition, to generate an unprecedented picture of adipose tissue heterogeneity, we will generate single cell data to deconvolute the adipose tissue complexity in the same patients. These experiments will address several important clinical questions such as whether, extreme metabolic phenotypes can be linked to rare genetic variants and whether there is a link between adipose tissue composition, especially with regards to energy burning adipocytes and metabolic health in the obese state.


The results of this project will afford a unique opportunity to infer a link between adipose tissue composition, genomic information and clinical outcome data for a large patient cohort. In other words, by establishing a link between adipose tissue heterogeneity, genomic variation, and healthy obesity in relation to the presence of energy burning adipocytes, we hope to establish novel paradigms to personalize individual obesity treatment in patients.


Health care costs are becoming an increasing burden for societies. The two most costly diseases are diabetes ($ 101 billion) and heart disease ($ 88 billion) The increase in diabetes has been substantial in the last 2 decades due the continuous rise of obesity in western countries. Personalized medicine is commonly associated with the field of oncology. However, it has already become clear that obesity and the associated diseases are very diverse, making them ideal targets for a personalized treatment approach. Thus, the response to modern drugs is significantly different among different ethnic groups. While the field is evolving rapidly, concepts to target metabolic disease on a personalized level are still uncommon.

Pioneer Project

Prof. Dr. Christian Wolfrum

ETH Zurich


  • Bart Deplancke


In Progress

Funded by