Obesity is a growing global epidemic and a major factor that contributes to several leading causes of death in the United States, such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer.
UC San Francisco was recently awarded federal funds to launch a Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC) – one of only 12 such centers nationwide – to support and facilitate studies on obesity, nutrition, and metabolism at UCSF and across northern California.
The 12 NORCs, supported by grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), are specifically designed to research the development of obesity and ways to treat and prevent it by studying the links between nutrition and health. Overall, the NORC program aims to integrate basic science and clinical studies to improve obesity research.
Christian Vaisse, MD, PhD
UCSF’s center includes more than 40 researchers across 12 departments, whose work spans basic research to clinical investigations and public health interventions.
Over the next five years, approximately $7 million in NORC funding will be disbursed to support core facilities allowing researchers to perform state-of-the–art experiments relevant to nutrition and obesity. The NORC will also provide pilot and feasibility research grants to facilitate the emergence of innovative studies in nutrition and obesity.
For example, some researchers are identifying rare mutations that affect the brain and alter circadian rhythms, which could help understand how sleep affects metabolism and obesity; others are studying treatments for obesity involving the modulation of fat cell development; yet others are examining how the UCSF Health Beverage Initiative is impacting sugar sweetened beverage intake and the metabolic health of UCSF employees.
The center’s success will be gauged by the number of published studies, research grants received by members, as well as the career progress of junior faculty members entering this area of research, according to NORC Director Christian Vaisse, MD, PhD, a professor in the School of Medicine.
“NIH funding of a Nutrition and Obesity Research Center at UCSF is a major achievement that will exponentially enhance the building of a strong research base and an interactive community in obesity and nutrition research at UCSF,” Vaisse said.
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