“Nutritional lipids and cerebral inflammation: a new therapeutic approach for the treatment of obesity?”

To study the relationships between eating behavior and the cellular response of individuals, it has become essential to use the tools of morphometry, a field which is interested in forms, especially by a statistical approach. This project aims to understand the mechanisms involved in the cerebral inflammatory response induced by different types of dietary fat (both animal and vegetable). Thanks to an innovative technological approach, the project could have direct clinical and economic impacts allowing the identification of promising and innovative targets to fight obesity caused by Western hyperlipid diets.

Obesity is a major public health problem

Obesity affects close to 15% of the world’s population, including 41 million children. Studies performed on animal and human models show that surrounding organs affected by the excess fat in Western diets communicate with the nerve centers of the hypothalamus involved in the control of eating behavior to change the way the hypothalamus functions.

This project has the goal of understanding the mechanisms involved in the cerebral inflammatory response induced by different types of dietary fat (animal and vegetable). The changes caused by a hyperlipid diet are complex and also poorly studied. These changes could initially involve glial cells, which form the environment of the neurons, comprise the blood-brain barrier, and are responsible for the inflammatory response in the brain. The preferred hypothesis is that the activation of these cells is important in the first hours after a meal.

 Offering a new treatment against obesity

This project will perfect a procedure to process/analyze images so as to automatically measure the extension of astrocytes as well as morphological microglial changes, which will allow the activation of these cells to be determined. The project will attempt to establish if the inhibition of this early activation could prevent obesity in order to be able to offer an innovative treatment for obesity.

 An interdisciplinary project

This project is interdisciplinary and uses an applied mathematics approach to image processing in addition to statistical learning to respond to a challenge in neuroscience. To achieve its goal, the project relies on the interaction between two laboratories: the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology (IPMC) and the Sophia Antipolis Laboratory for Computer Science, Signals, and Systems. A multidisciplinary approach is used combining cutting-edge science and technology, including: animal models (wild-type and transgenic), behavioral studies, physiology, pharmacology, immunoassays, biochemical assays, gene expression, advanced stereotactic surgery, gene manipulation at the individual cell level, imaging and imaging processing techniques, morphometry, and unsupervised classification. Each researcher’s expertise will enable the development of powerful signal and image processing tools, which will be provided to the local, national, and international scientific communities.

A high-visibility project

After having received a research grant from the Nestlé Foundation in 2016, this project was recently awarded the Medisite Prize in Neuroscience under the auspices of the Fondation de France. The results of this research will be published in high-impact scientific journals and presented at both national and international conferences (e.g., French Society for Neuroendocrinology, French Society for Neuroscience, Keystone Symposium, American Society for Neuroscience). This exposure will increase the research visibility of the Université Côte d’Azur.

Further information on this project by clicking here.

 The Complex Systems Academy of Excellence is supporting this innovative and interdisciplinary research project by funding one month of a post-doc’s salary.


Photo caption: Visualization by immunohistochemistry of microglial cells on a brain section.

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