Professor Saverio Cinti graduated with a degree in medicine from Padua University in 1974, where he specialized in internal medicine and anatomic pathology. Since 1977, he has worked at Ancona University in Italy, where he has been Professor of Anatomy in the School of Medicine since 1984.
Dr Cinti began his work in the field of adipose tissues in 1980 in the lab of Prof Bjorntorp (Gothenburg University). He developed the concept of the adipose organ focusing on the plastic properties of adipose tissues and outlined the importance of this plasticity for future treatment of obesity and related disorders. He described the CLS as the cause of low grade chronic inflammation in the obese adipose organ. In 2006 Professor Cinti was an invited speaker at 134th Nobel Symposium “The Adipocyte: a Multifunctional Cell;” in 2008 received the Blaise Pascal medal of the European Academy of Science for biology and in 2013 he was awarded the Wasserman Prize for Senior Scientist by the European Association for the Study of Obesity.
Professor Cinti, we are delighted to have you speak at the upcoming European Congress on Obesity in May 2018. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us and tell us about your work.
Please tell us about your path-breaking work detailing the remarkable plasticity of the adipose organ, and the theories of adipocyte transdifferentiation you developed:
Thank you. This work dates back to 1988, when I met Dr Loncar (at that time working in the lab of the anatomist Bjorn Afzelius) On the occasion of the first EASO Congress held in Stockholm, we discussed his animal studies – experiments with cold-exposed rats. Based on this meeting I decided to study in detail the convertible fat phenomenon and applied electron microscopy to the white adipose tissue of cold-exposed rats and mice. It was immediately and visibly evident that white adipocytes changed their morphology toward that of brown adipocytes. Electron microscopy is a very powerful technique — in my opinion the most powerful technique — to understand what happens in cells and tissues during different experimental conditions. Since then, I conducted many experiments in collaboration with several European and American labs which fully confirmed the direct conversion of white to brown adipocytes, opening new avenues for the treatment of obesity and related disorders.
Clearly this research has major implications for the field of obesity.
At that time, the seminal work by Michael Stock and Nancy Rothwell attracted deep and wide interest around the use of brown adipose tissue activation to treat obesity and related disorders which also sparked international research in the field focused on human brown adipose tissue.
Since then, it became clear that the amount of brown adipose tissue in adult humans is negligible, but the idea of converting WAT to BAT has maintained high interest. Thanks to the work of John Arch in collaboration with Michael Stock, we were able to demonstrate the presence of beta3 adrenoceptors on human white adipose tissue, thus reinforcing the idea that WAT can be converted into BAT in adult humans. The re-discovery of BAT in adult humans with 5 papers written in 2009, (one from our lab) re-invigorated interest in BAT and the transdifferentiation idea. Thus, we worked to reinforce the transdifferentiation phenomenon by looking to other physiologic examples. An exciting confirmation came from the adipose organ during the stages of pregnancy-lactation-post lactation. We proposed the physiologic and reversible adipo-epithelial conversion in mammary glands during pregnancy-lactation-post-lactation. Morphology, immunohistochemistry, BrdU data were corroborated by lineage tracing studies using aP2-Cre/R26R and WAP-Cre/R26R mice (very advanced at that time: 2004). In order to confirm these data, we also performed explants of tagged fat and isolated mature adipocytes into wild type mice, which during pregnancy showed tagged mammary glands derived from the explanted fat and mature adipocytes.
Given this new understanding of the biology in adipose tissue during recent years, have there been recent developments in your work?
Yes, we recently showed that even the very specific UCP1 immunoreactive thermogenic brown fat can derive from mammary glands in the post-lactation period (by lineage tracing using again WAP-Cre/R26R mice).
Furthermore, our recent work, in collaboration with Maria Grano at Bari University, showed that the recombinant myokine irisin, injected into mice is able to increase the strength of bones and can be used to prevent and treat murine models of osteoporosis.
Many thanks, Professor Cinti; we look forward to joining your Plenary Session and talk for the New Investigators United at ECO