by Kevin M.
March 17, 2008
In recent years Americans have
gotten the bad news: our children — as the rest of
us — are getting fatter. More than 20
percent of the adult American population is overweight and/or
obese, and the percentage of overweight children is approaching
these numbers. The rest of the industrialized world — not as flush
in fast foods and video gaming — seemed to be not so fat.
But childhood obesity is on the
rise in Spain and other countries as well, says Gabriel A. Martos-Moreno,
M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric endocrinologist who is joining John
Kopchick, Ph.D., at the Edison Biotechnology Institute and Ohio
University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM) to continue his
research of the alarming problem at Ohio University’s Edison
Biotechnology Institute. Working with Kopchick, who is a professor
of molecular and cellular biology and Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar at
OU-COM, Martos-Moreno will spend the next several months seeking to
unlock the molecular and genetic keys of the spreading health
problem. Kopchick, an established pioneer in the human growth
hormone field, has for the last several years been studying the
genetic and molecular basis for obesity and diabetes. Martos-Moreno
and Kopchick met at a conference in Seville in 2004. Kopchick has
been a friend and colleague of Martos-Moreno’s boss, Jesus Argente,
M.D., for several years.
“In Europe and particularly in
Spain, obesity was thought to be a problem abroad. We had always
thought of it as a problem for Americans,” says Martos-Moreno, a
fellow in pediatric endocrinology at the Department of Endocrinology
of the Hospital Infantil Universitario Niño Jesús in Madrid, Spain.
“But (in Spain) we’ve come to realize that not only in adults but
for children as well, during the last 20 years obesity has increased
its prevalence from about four-and-a-half or five percent to about
15 percent. It’s tripled. It’s a trend quite similar to the one in
the United States. The trend lines were nearly parallel. It’s the
same problem in both countries.”
Teaming with Martos-Moreno,
says Kopchick, will allow him to continue extending his research
with human adipose (fat) tissue in search of bio-markers of obesity
and diabetes, which are highly correlated with each other.
In Kopchick’s Edison
laboratory, Martos-Moreno will be studying serum (blood) samples of
his Spanish patients — both before and after weight losses.
Kopchick and his
colleagues, Darlene Berryman, Ph.D., and graduate student
Lucila Sackmann Sala, will be studying human tissue samples he has
received from Dexter Blome, M.D., Ph.D., the chief of plastic
surgery at Mt. Carmel East Hospital, a Centers for Osteopathic
Research and Education hospital in Columbus. Kopchick will study
mouse adipose tissue, as well.
Kopchick will make a range of comparisons of adipose and serum
samples at the genetic and molecular levels in order to determine
the proteins that are expressed in these tissues as a function of
diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity.
can shed a little bit of light on understanding the real expression
of proteins in human obesity,” says Martos-Moreno. Both researchers
hope their findings will eventually help lead to the development of
medicines and therapies effective for treating and, perhaps, even
curing obesity and diabetes. Also, protein biomarkers or diagnostics
that may be discovered could allow for early detection of
As a practicing pediatrician,
Martos-Moreno says he came to see that the problems of obese
children were not being studied as well as he thought they could be.
These patients needed more attention, he says, if they were going to
get healthy and stay healthy.
“We’re honored to
have Dr. Martos collaborate with us,” says Kopchick, considering he
could have chosen other universities to do so. “It’s prestigious for
Ohio University to have Dr. Martos here.”
In addition to his
laboratory research, Martos-Moreno will work with C. Thomas
Clark, D.O., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at OU-COM.
Although he won’t be licensed to practice medicine in the United
States, he will be able to observe patients with Clark and will
lecture medical students.
“It’s a great privilege to have him
as part of the department of pediatrics,” says Clark. “Even though
he’ll be limited to education and didactics, it’s a real stimulus
for the pediatrics department to have him on board as a visiting
professor of pediatrics until he leaves in November.”
Martos-Moreno will also be working
in collaboration with Karen Montgomery-Reagan, D.O.,
associate chairwoman of pediatrics, and Andrew Wapner, D.O.,
a pediatric diabetologist.
“I wanted to have the
experience of living here and seeing the way you work,” says Martos-Moreno,
whose stay is funded by the Spanish government. Not only just this
single investigation, he says, but to observe a broader range of the
ways research is conducted in America.
“Most of all, after
meeting John, we both saw a great opportunity to push further a
common line of scientific investigation that we shared.”