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Obesity

The aim of our obesity theme is to improve the health of people affected by obesity and obesity-associated diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, by rapidly translating our biomedical research discoveries into innovative and preventative treatment strategies through a ‘precision medicine/surgery’ approach.

Our key areas of focus:

  • Utilise bariatric surgery as an ‘experimental tool’ coupled with phenotyping and biobanking to interrogate the genetics and biology of energy and glucose homeostasis.
  • Develop and validate non-invasive MRI quantification of body fat content, with an emphasis on pancreatic, hepatic, bone and muscle fat.
  • Undertake proof of concept studies aimed at targeting non-alcoholic fatty pancreatic disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Design and test novel interventions/approaches for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Undertake genotype-based randomised controlled trial that will inform precision medicine based weight management interventions.
  • Establish UK wide Obesity Empowerment Network for people affected by obesity

Our research expertise ranges from genetic and biochemical; to behavioural, with a focus on how metabolic pathways influence behaviour and the impact of environmental influences and stress on metabolism. These basic discovery obesity research efforts are underpinned by access to well-characterised (phenotyped and genotyped) patients with obesity and population cohorts, together with cutting-edge imaging and ‘omics’ technologies and strong collaborative interactions with other BRC themes and industry. We have expertise in obesity-related first-in-human studies, novel-device based interventions, innovative surgical procedures, psycho-behavioural and lifestyle interventions in diverse populations and clinical settings. We will use this expertise to rapidly translate our experimental medicine from the bench to the bedside.

Our research is at the forefront of international efforts focused on understanding how bariatric surgery leads to unparalleled improvements in obesity-associated co-morbidities with the aim of improving the health outcomes of bariatric surgery and the development of ‘knifeless surgery’.  The UCLH Bariatric Centre for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery provides comprehensive medical and surgical treatment for adults with obesity and is one of the largest UK Obesity Centres. The Centre was explicitly established with translational research embedded into the clinical services. Detailed phenotyping and assessment of therapeutic strategies in people attending clinics for obesity and obesity-associated diseases will form a key component of our strategy.

In 2017 Obesity theme lead Professor Rachel Batterham presented a special documentary that was aired on BBC2. Click here to watch the documentary on Vimeo using password: SEFNHS

Translation into healthcare and policy:

Translation into healthcare is a key component of our overall strategy and in order to drive effective translation of basic science, that can turn into benefits for patients, we are establishing an obesity patient/public involvement group called the Obesity Empowerment Network UK.

Our obesity clinician scientists, Professor Rachel Batterham and Professor Russell Viner, have informed and shaped UK obesity clinical care through their involvement with key public health committees and government, such as NICE and the NIHR, and patient advisory panels. This key interface with policy-makers and the public allows UCLH/UCL’s biomedical research to be translated into benefits for patients, the health-care system and wider society.