Obesity is a major and growing health concern. It is associated with premature death and causes considerable ill health through its link with problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and disorders of the joints, gastrointestinal tract and reproductive organs. It is also associated with increased rates of certain cancers. Such a major health threat requires multiple approaches.
Identifying the environmental factors that have led to the recent increase in obesity and finding ways of altering the environment so that it is less unhealthy is clearly critical.
However, even when individuals share the same environment, only some become obese. Similarly, while many obese people suffer adverse health consequences a substantial proportion do not. Understanding why this might be is crucial if we are to improve on current approaches to prevention and treatment of these diseases.
The MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit (MDU) was established in 2013 to expand the work of the successful MRC Centre for Obesity and Metabolic Diseases. It provides direct support for five high-quality programmes of research that aim to improve understanding of the basic mechanisms responsible for obesity and related metabolic diseases. It also includes key core facilities that support investigators based at the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science – Metabolic Research Laboratories (IMS-MRL) and in the surrounding area. Such close ties with local Units and Institutes provide MDU scientists with unique opportunities to explore the genetic, epigenetic and physiological bases of obesity and metabolic disease.
The MDU is the first MRC-University unit to be developed from scratch. It is based at the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science (IMS) and is part of a joint initiative between the MRC and Wellcome that supports obesity research in Cambridge.
Professor Sir Steve O’Rahilly