Human virus turns fat stem cells into pre-fat cells and onto fatter fat cells

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Released: Monday, October 23, 2006

Finding has implications for understanding some obesity

BATON ROUGE - A key scientific finding released today shows a human virus targets fat stem cells to cause formation of more, fatter, fat cells. This finding may lead to new insights into the study of obesity.

Fat tissue, like bone marrow and umbilical cords, is a rich source of stem cells that are naturally programmed to heal and repair the human body. Called fat-derived adult stem cells, laboratory researchers have prompted them to convert to fat, bone, cartilage and muscle and believe these cells could help treat heart conditions, heal broken bones, and even be used in reconstructive surgery.

Magdalena Pasarica, Ph.D., released her new work on the fat-targeting virus at the International Applied Fat Technology Society (IFATS) meeting today. Pasarica is a researcher with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. She has been studying human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36) role in human obesity. Adenoviruses are the same viruses that cause colds.

Earlier researchers have concluded that Ad-36 may be contributors to obesity by super-charging fat cells to grow and store more fat. Until now, though, those researchers thought the viruses targeted pre-fat cells (called pre-adipocytes), causing them to convert in higher numbers to fat cells and causing those fat cells to be larger. Those studies were in mice. Pasaricas work determines the virus targets stem cells in humans.

Pasaricas research shows the virus goes to work before the formation of human pre-fat cells by targeting the stem cells that would eventually convert to pre-fat cells. The virus causes more stem cells to convert to pre-fat cells and causes the pre-fat cells to become bigger fat cells.

Jeffrey Gimble, Ph.D., researcher with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and current president of IFATS, amplified the reason the researchers are gathered this week, Gimble said, Fat is considered to be much more than just those extra pounds we carry around. Its a dynamic tissue that holds secrets to treating disease. Unlocking the potential of stem cells found in fat tissue is just the beginning.


The International Fat Applied Technology Society is the world's only interdisciplinary adipose tissue society. IFATS uniquely brings together different disciplines within the field in order to share knowledge, influence policy and exchange new ideas. Scientists and industry are working toward productive collaborations to develop new technology derived from and directed toward adipose tissue. A key topic of work and discussion among the scientists and physicians attending the IFATS meeting is translating the biology of adipose-derived stem cells into new therapies. For more information, visit


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.