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Principal Investigator: Melody Swartz, PhD

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Co-Principal Investigator: Lev Becker, PhD

Institution: University of Chicago

LF Funding History: 2017 Collaborative Award

Hypothesis: Our overarching hypothesis is that the microenvironment of lipedema is unique, and can promote disease by altering the communication between macrophages, adipocytes and lymphatic vessels. We further hypothesize that by identifying these unique factors in the microenvironment, we can develop a diagnostic test for lipedema.

Collaborative Opportunities: We are collaborating with Dr. Karol Gutowski, a plastic surgeon in Chicago who routinely performs liposuction on obese and lipedema patients. We are using samples from him to establish and standardize our techniques for exosome isolation, cell isolation, and fat tissue processing.

Once we establish these methods we will collaborate with Dr. Karen Herbst for the samples that we will analyze for the proposed work. In addition, we will be happy to collaborate with any other LF-funded investigators, particularly those that will perform complementary analyses on the same patient samples. Currently, we do not have any active collaborations with LF grantees but look forward to any opportunities in the near future.

Project: Microenvironmental Cues in Lipedema; Identifying Biomarkers and Exploring Adipose-Macrophage-Lymphatic Endothelium Cross-talk

Lipedema is a chronic disease of lipid metabolism, where impairments of adipose tissue distribution and storage combined with adipose tissue growth causes a swelling of the lower extremities. Although little is known about the mechanisms underlying lipedema, there is some evidence that there is an accumulation of inflammatory cells called macrophages into adipose tissue, which may promote the aberrant growth.

In addition, lymphatics are highly implicated in lipedema; lymphatic drainage is known to be dysfunctional, and lymphatic function is central to both initiating and controlling inflammation.  Here we propose to study the interplay between macrophages, adipocytes, and lymphatic vessels in lipedema patients. Our goals are to understand mechanisms underlying disease pathogenesis and to discover and develop biomarkers for diagnosing this important disorder.



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