Boston University School of Medicine


The Queen Of Metabolism’s Theory On Why We Are Fat

A researcher in Barbara Corkey's lab with some of the food additives being tested

The headline in Bostonia magazine, in appropriately big black letters, is “Why We Are Fat,” but the Facebook friend who pointed it out notes: “It’s not really about why we are fat. It’s a profile of the butt-kickin Barbara Corkey, a scientist who dropped out of college to get married and have two kids. Then her husband left and somehow she managed to claw her way to a PhD and scientific prominence. She is really cool.”

I spoke with Dr. Corkey in August about her theory that food additives are contributing to the obesity epidemic and came away with the same impression. Also really cool is this rich Bostonia story by the award-winning science writer Barbara Moran, who balances beautifully the hard science with the human element. A couple of favorite quotes:

“Barbara is out of the box—completely,” says collaborator Orian Shirihai, a MED associate professor of medicine. “She doesn’t even know what’s in the box. What she does is turn the box upside down and put it onto other scientists’ heads.”

And later on in the story, when Dr. Corkey has won a major scientific prize and delivers a speech before thousands, Dr. Shirihai takes the metaphor a colorful step further:

“Instead of simply recapping her career, Corkey spent an hour discussing a controversial new direction for her research: whether the 4,000 additives in the U.S. food supply might be contributing to diabetes and obesity. “For those people who never got out of the box,” Shirihai says with a laugh, “it was like having a high-volume enema.”

BU Cancer Researcher Fabricated Data, Feds Report

We totally missed this story yesterday of former Boston University School of Medicine assistant professor and cancer researcher, Sheng Wang, who federal authorities say fabricated data published in two scientific journals. The news was first reported on the website Retraction Watch here.

The case is detailed on the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity:

Sheng Wang, PhD, Boston University School of Medicine Cancer Research Center: Based on the Respondent’s acceptance of ORI’s research misconduct findings, ORI found that Dr. Sheng Wang, who has been an Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine Cancer Research Center (BUSM), engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grants R01 CA102940 and R01 CA101992.

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All Fat Is Not Created Equal

By Fran Cronin
WBUR Intern

Imagine if your doctor were able to biopsy a plug of tissue from your belly fat and determine whether or not your body had the potential to fend off the known panoply of obesity-related diseases.

Well, that’s exactly what researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center have done. In a four-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that all fat is not created equal.

The study involved comparing the amount of inflammation present in samples of belly fat from 109 obese men and women with 17 lean
men and women. Surprisingly, thirty percent of the severely obese people sampled were found to have a fat type and vascular function comparable with a lean person — despite their obesity.

Dr. Noyan Gokce, a cardiologist at Boston Medical Center who led the study, says the findings suggest “it’s not just the quantity of fat but the quality of fat” that determines risk to obesity-related diseases.

Fat, despite its bad rap, may actually be an important defining factor to overall body heath. What differentiates good fat from bad fat, says Gokce, is the presence of inflammation. The combination of inflammation within fatty tissue is what makes obese people – those with a BMI above 30 – so susceptible to so many other complications and diseases, notably cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, high cholesterol and cancer. Continue reading