Dr. Weiqin Chen studied the role of dyslipidemia on diabetic retinopathy, a microvascular complication in diabetic patients with Dr. Julia Busik at Michigan State University and received her PhD degree in Molecular Genetics in 2005. Subsequently, she worked as a Postdoctoral associate for five years with Dr. Lawrence Chan at Baylor College of Medicine, where she was promoted as an instructor in 2010. At BCM, she established two animal models based on genes that are associated with non-alchoholic fatty liver disease (NALFD) and human congenital generalized lipodystrophy (CGL) and characterized their functions in energy metabolism. In 2012, she was recruited as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology at Georgia Regents University. The focus of her current research is to dissect the mechanisms underlying adipose tissue dysfunction and development of obesity and lipodystrophy using both in vivo and in vitro strategies.
Obesity and its associated health comorbidities are a worldwide epidemic with serious economic and health burden on society. Adipose tissue is an important endocrine organ that plays a key role in the development of obesity and various metabolic disorders. White adipocytes store excess energy in the form of triglycerides for future need. By contrast, brown and beige (browning-in-white) adipocytes metabolize lipid and glucose to produce heat in a process known as nonshivering thermogenesis, which is crucial in systemic energy homeostasis and thermoregulation. Functional brown and beige adipose tissues are highly correlated with body mass index in adult humans and is either reduced or absent in obese and aged individuals and rodents. The long-term research interest in the lab is to understand the regulation of white, beige and brown adipose tissue development and energy homeostasis, and use it to develop potential therapeutic approaches for obesity and related metabolic diseases.