Fat, or adipose tissue, is one of the few tissues in the body that can grow and regress throughout life. To researchers in the Folkman lab, it seemed likely that angiogenesis had to be taking place as body fat increased, and that the new fat cells would die if angiogenesis were inhibited.
To test this hypothesis, Maria Rupnick, MD, PhD, and colleagues gave angiogenesis inhibitors to a strain of severely obese mice and to mice of normal weight. The new blood vessels in obese mice regressed and, in the process, fat cells died. As a result, the obese mice shed a significant percentage of their weight while on the angiogenesis inhibitors, but they regained it when the drugs were stopped. The angiogenesis inhibitors had little effect on the normal mice.
Rupnick's research established for the first time that the growth of at least one type of healthy tissue is controlled by angiogenesis. And, although preliminary, it may suggest a new approach to combating obesity.