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BME PhD student, Publishes Findings on Alternative                         Lifestyle Modifications in Obesity  

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Obesity is one of the pressing issues of the 21st century. Lifestyle modifications in terms of diet and exercise are the primary treatment for obesity. However, patients with disability or morbid obesity would not be able to endure strenuous exercise.

Vihita Patel, a fifth year PhD student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is the first author on a publication in Obesity that used an adult murine model  of high fat diet induced obesity.

In this study, Vihita demonstrates that low intensity mechanical stimulation, as a surrogate to exercise, can also be an efficacious treatment for obesity and related disorders such as type 2 diabetes. Her research also finds that, with aging, it is not just the physical activity, but also the scheduling of the physical activity, that plays a major role in its effectiveness.

Her manuscript demonstrates that obesity leads to adipose tissue dysfunction (increased visceral adiposity, adipocyte hypertrophy, chronic inflammation in adipose tissue, and reduced mesenchymal stem cell population in the adipose tissue) and consequently impaired glucose metabolism (increased glucose intolerance and insulin resistance). Subjecting obese mice to a very low magnitude and high frequency mechanical stimulation (LMMS) for six weeks mitigates obesity-induced adipose tissue dysfunction and impaired glucose metabolism. However, LMMS is more effective when it is delivered in two bouts of 15 minutes per day separated by a five hour rest period, rather than one bout of 30 minutes per day.

“This study helps people to understand that instead of doing strenuous exercise just once a day, it is more effective to break down their exercise regime in multiple shorter bouts throughout the day,” Vihita said.  “In addition, for people that are unable to endure strenuous exercise, we hope to introduce our low intensity vibration platform in the clinic for patients suffering with obesity.”

This study provides insight into how exercise could be beneficial in obesity, emphasizing that with aging, the scheduling of the physical activity is at least as important, if not more, than the activity itself. It also demonstrates that LMMS, as a surrogate to exercise, can serve as a non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatment for obesity without requiring strenuous physical exertion.

Vihita works with her research advisor Professor Clinton Rubin and Research Assistant Professor Ete Chan in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

“In our lab, once we have a general idea for the project, we devise a detailed experimental plan with primary goals, secondary goals, possible pitfalls and alternative strategies,” said Vihita.  “As we start to gather data from an experiment, we try to understand what it all means and what sort of follow-up projects can help us understand the mechanism behind the disease/treatment.”

Vihita is pursuing her PhD in Biomedical Engineering, with a focus on how mechanical stimulation can be utilized as a treatment for obesity and related metabolic disorders.  Upon graduation in, she hopes to continue her research in an industry setting.

A link to the full article can be found here .

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