UTSW Doctors Are Tackling Obesity With Medical Research

Drs. David Mangelsdorf and Steven Kliewer.
Drs. David Mangelsdorf and Steven Kliewer.

Few industries are as critical to the vibrancy of North Texas as healthcare. The sector adds more than $52 billion to the local economy each year and supports at least 600,000 regional jobs.

It’s also tough to find a field with a more virtuous mission; after all, healthcare companies and workers are in the business of improving and saving lives. We think that’s worth a little recognition. Our new Excellence in Healthcare Awards—produced in partnership with our online news site, D Healthcare Daily—honor industry executives, practitioners, innovators, researchers, and others who stand out in their fields.

The inaugural program attracted more than 180 nominations. From that group, D CEO editors selected 30 finalists and winners in 11 categories. 


ACHIEVEMENT IN PHARMACEUTICALS: Drs. David Mangelsdorf and Steven Kliewer

More than one out of three adults in the United States is obese. That leads to millions of deaths each year from a host of related conditions that are largely preventable, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Fortunately, research by a team led by Dr. David Mangelsdorf of UT Southwestern Medical Center could help. Mangelsdorf, chair and professor of pharmacology, is looking into proteins called nuclear receptors, which flip genes on and off. These receptors serve as sensors in protecting human cells against unusually high levels of fats, such as cholesterol, according to the school.

Previous discoveries by Mangelsdorf’s team relate to the body’s governance of cholesterol, along with the regulation of its metabolism of fats and bile acids. That in turn could lead to new medications to combat high cholesterol and related diseases, according to the school.

The research that Mangelsdorf’s team is doing fits hand in glove with work by a group led by Dr. Steven Kliewer, a professor of molecular biology and pharmacology at UT Southwestern. Kliewer and his colleagues have discovered chemicals that would allow drugs to remain in the body’s circulation longer, thus making multi-drug treatments more effective.

Mangelsdorf and Kliewer have also discovered a hormone that can launch a process that results in the generation of body heat by burning fat.

—Jeff Bounds

Posted in News, Pharmaceuticals, Research.