Prof. Assaf Rudich

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Research Projects

Adipose Tissue Studies - An Established Track Record

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For the past eight years, Center member Prof. Assaf Rudich has worked closely with Dr. Ilana Harman-Boehm, the director of the Soroka University Medical Center Diabetes Unit, and Soroka surgeon Dr. Boris Kirshtein, in a collaboration that has resulted in the creation of an extensive biobank comprised of tissue samples from over 1,000 patients and extensive research utilizing the adipose tissue collected from individuals undergoing elective abdominal surgery. During this surgery, a sample of the patient’s adipose tissue is removed from areas directly below the skin and from within the abdominal cavity.  Researchers analyze the composition of the tissue, including gene and protein expression analysis.  Cells are cultured, enabling scientists to perform cellular studies and manipulate the cells and observe their behavior under various conditions.

Adipose tissue is an active metabolic and endocrine organ, primarily used to store energy in the form of lipids but also occupied with other functions including the production and secretion of hormones.  While this tissue is largely comprised of fat cells, its other components include immune cells, and Dr. Rudich’s team has extensively studied the activation state of immune cells and their infiltration into adipose tissue. 

Comparing the infiltration of immune cells into the different abdominal adipose tissue depots, the BGU research group was amongst the first to demonstrate and report infiltration differences, noting both the increased degree to which immune cells infiltrate intra-abdominal ('visceral') adipose tissue and their heightened activation state (reflected by immune cell inflammation).  The researchers have also identified signaling pathways activated in adipose tissue associated with biomarkers of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  In this manner our researchers are uncovering the characteristics of adipose tissue linked to cardio-metabolic morbidity, and these findings have served as a springboard for further research addressing the role of adipose tissue in obesity and cardio-metabolic disease.  The team is aiming to identify the biological mechanisms associated with aspects of obesity that are detrimental to health and use this knowledge to develop interventions that will decrease the negative health effects often caused by obesity.  

For example, specific patterns of adipose tissue composition and accumulation have been linked to cardio-metabolic disease and obesity.  Further research to identify the associated biological mechanisms, understand why these patterns are dangerous, and demonstrate causation between different factors could enable researchers to develop an intervention to redistribute or redirect adipose tissue from bad locations in the body to less harmful areas, thereby reducing the impact of obesity on health.  The follow-up study to DIRECT (one of the RCTs mentioned earlier) confirms long-lasting, favorable post-intervention effects of diets, possibly signifying the capacity of healthier dietary habits to reverse obesity-associated adipose tissue dysfunction.  This avenue of research reflects the important link between the complementary research conducted by Prof. Rudich’s team with the RCTs led by Prof. Shai.  ​

 

Current Adipose Tissue Research

 

Cellular studies allow researchers to deconstruct the body’s biological processes, model them in vitro, and manipulate cellular systems in an artificial environment. Such studies are helpful to distinguish between association and causation; for example, is the inflammation of immune cells in adipose tissue simply associated with (or reflective of) obesity or does it in fact cause obesity-related morbidities.  Prof. Rudich’s current investigation centers on the relationship and interaction between adipose tissue and 1) immune cell infiltration/inflammation, and 2) liver cells.  Utilizing cells from the biobank or established cell lines, Prof. Rudich studies the cross talk (interaction) and impact and effect each type of cell has on the other. 

Prof. Rudich’s research collaborations include projects close to home and abroad.  He partners with Prof. Amir Aharoni of BGU's Department of Life Sciences and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, and the pair is involved with research that advances precision medicine therapeutics through the identification of novel biomarkers and the very early stages of drug development.  This collaboration emphasizes the more translational aspects of Prof. Rudich’s work in which therapeutics might be developed to prevent the inflammation of immune cells in adipose tissue, thereby minimizing the negative impact of obesity. 

On the international front, Prof. Rudich and his collaborators at a major Paris hospital were recently awarded a highly competitive and prestigious research grant by the Israeli and French governments.  This precision medicine research strives to identify new biomarkers for those undergoing bariatric surgery in order to identify those who will most benefit from the surgery.  A number of patients experience partial or even full remission of their diabetes as a result of the surgery, and this research could help physicians target this procedure at those individuals. 

This exciting research has the potential to dramatically affect patient care and outcome for individuals with diabetes and change the face of diet and cardio-metabolic research in the future.  Already the knowledge gained from Prof. Rudich’s research has impacted the RCT studies conducted by fellow members of the S. Daniel Abraham International Center for Health and Nutrition, and it is this combination of expertise that has enabled the Center to become a leader in the field.