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The Role of Ectopic Adipocyte Progenitors in Age-related Stem Cell Dysfunction, Systemic Inflammation, and Metabolic Disease (AgeingStemCellFate)
Start date: Mar 1, 2013, End date: Feb 28, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Ageing is accompanied by ectopic white adipose tissue depositions in skeletal muscle and other anatomical locations, such as brown adipose tissue and the bone marrow. Ectopic fat accrual contributes to organ dysfunction, systemic insulin resistance, and other perturbations that have been implicated in metabolic diseases.This research proposal aims to identify the regulatory cues that control the development of ectopic progenitor cells that give rise to this type of fat. It is hypothesized that an age-related dysfunction of the stem cell niche leads to an imbalance between (1) tissue-specific stem cells and (2) fibroblast-like, primarily adipogenic progenitors that reside within many tissues. Novel methodologies that assess stem/progenitor cell characteristics on the single cell level will be combined with animal models of lineage tracing to determine the developmental origin of these adipogenic progenitors and processes that regulate their function.Notch signalling is a key signalling pathway that relies on direct physical interaction to control stem cell fate. It is proposed that impaired Notch activity contributes to the phenotypical shift of precursor cell distribution in aged tissues.Lastly, the role of the stem cell niche in ectopic adipocyte progenitor formation will be analyzed. External signals originating from the surrounding niche cells regulate the developmental fate of stem cells. Secreted factors and their role in the formation of ectopic adipocyte precursors during senescence will be identified using a combination of biochemical and systems biology approaches.Accomplishment of these studies will help to understand the basic processes of stem cell ageing and identify mechanisms of age-related functional decline in tissue regeneration. By targeting the population of tissue-resident adipogenic progenitor cells, therapeutic strategies could be developed to counteract metabolic complications associated with the ageing process.
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