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Columbia honors Philipp Scherer for helping to define body fat as major endocrine organ

NEW YORK, NY, Nov. 18, 2013 Columbia University Medical Center has honored Philipp E. Scherer, PhD, with the 15th Naomi Berrie Award for Outstanding Research in Diabetes, for his work that helped usher in a new understanding of fat and its role in diabetes and other metabolic diseases. His discovery of adiponectin, a hormone produced by fat, helped transform the scientific concept of fat as an inert storage depot to one of it as an endocrine "organ" that exerts control over the brain, muscles, and other organs. The award, given annually by CUMC's Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, is Columbia's top honor for excellence in diabetes research.

"Dr. Scherer's work in diabetes research has always ranked among the most creative in the field," said Rudolph L. Leibel, MD, the Christopher J. Murphy Professor of Diabetes Research, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at CUMC, and chair of the selection committee. "His comprehensive analysis of fat tissue physiology has helped to elucidate the molecular basis for the relationship of obesity to insulin resistance, diabetes, and, metabolic syndrome; it helped to launch studies of the role of fat in inflammation and cancer."

Dr. Scherer's studies of adiponectin revealed the hormone's potent anti-diabetes effects: blocking glucose production in the liver and improving insulin sensitivity in muscle. Because adiponectin levels fall as fatness levels rise, drugs that increase adiponectin may be effective in fighting diabetes and other consequences of obesity.

More recently, Dr. Scherer helped establish that obesity itself is not the direct cause of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, but rather is initially protective by directing excess lipid away from critical tissues such as muscle and liver. In a conceptual leap, he showed that expansion of "healthy fat" tissue in mouse models can maintain metabolic health.

Dr. Scherer is professor of internal medicine, holds the Gifford O.

Contact: Elizabeth Streich
Columbia University Medical Center

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