St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research
New research from St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research on lipoedema – a debilitating chronic disease often misdiagnosed as obesity – provides a path to potential drug treatments and development of a diagnostic screening test.
Led by Dr. Tara Karnezis and Associate Professor Ramin Shayan, the new study has identified a stem cell in lipoedema and a gene that drives excess fat growth – elements key to diagnosing and treating the condition.
“Our findings confirm, consistent with the lived experience of families, that lipoedema is a legitimate medical condition, and that it is not the same as obesity,” said Dr. Karnezis. “Our team has identified a key stem cell and some of the genetic and molecular mechanisms that underpin it.”
“We investigated tissue from people with and without lipoedema and identified stem cells that are only found in lipoedema patients. We all have fat stem cells – from which fat cells usually grow at a regular rate. But people with lipoedema have fat stem cells that differ from those in normal fat in almost every way. We found that the usual mechanisms controlling the number of fat cells produced do not function properly and these cells undergo unrestricted growth.”
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