How blood vessels regulate obesity through a molecular communication

The abundance and function of blood vessels in adipose tissue conditions the development of obesity, according to a study by laboratories from the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute and CIC bioGUNE, both members of the Cancer Networking Biomedical Research Center (CIBERONC).

Dr Mariona Graupera (Credit: Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute)

Obesity is a multifactorial epidemic disease closely related to the development of multiple pathologies, originated by the exacerbated expansion of adipose tissue. The development of prevention and treatment strategies for this disease is, therefore, an urgent biomedical need. Adipose tissue has important blood supply requirements, and the contribution of vessels to the development of obesity had not been clarified until now.


In order to clarify the contribution of blood vessels to the development of obesity, Dr Mariona Graupera and colleagues studied a mouse model with increased vascular functionality, and observed that the animals were resistant to the development of obesity.


"At that moment we knew that the vessels were instructing the body to control the management of fat," explained Graupera. From this point on, the research team focused its efforts on identifying the mechanism in the vessel's crosstalk with the adipose tissue.


The leaders of this research integrated international experts in different disciplines into the project to provide a comprehensive response to the phenomenon they just described. Years of research led to the conclusion that blood vessels use a language of communication based on small molecules or "metabolites" to instruct adipose tissue. The adipocytes, in response to the message from the vessels, release fat, which the vessels capture as food to proliferate.


"While the vessels activate this process during a controlled increase in proliferation, the tumour cells do so in an uncontrolled and aberrant way."


This study sheds light on the importance of blood vessels in regulating health and disease in our body.

"Vessels have historically been considered inert blood transport tubes, but we are discovering that they perceive alterations in our body and respond by regulating and organizing the function of multiple tissues." Graupera concluded. "The fact that the vessels respond differently in each organ suggests that we are facing a tissue that is specialised throughout our body, and this opens up exciting opportunities to improve human health through the regulation of blood vessels."

The teams from CIC bioGUNE and the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute have worked hand in hand with Rubén Nogueiras from CIMUS in Santiago de Compostela, Marc Claret from IDIBAPS in Barcelona and Paul Cohen from the Rockefeller University in New York. The findings, ‘Angiocrine polyamine production regulates adiposity’, published in Nature Metabolism ’, were publication.


Part of the research has received funding from the Fundación BBVA grants programme to research teams under the project "Endothelial molecular alterations induced by excessive energy intake—a new concept in obesity and metabolic disorders EndObes."