Prof. Assaf Rudich
Adipose Tissue Studies - An
Established Track Record
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.