Tackling the issue of obesity

April 3rd, 2012
Obesity has more than doubled in the last 30 years, according to the WHO, and next month leading researchers in the area the will discuss the progress in understanding and combatting the disease.

Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome - A making connections symposium, a joint initiative between Monash University and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, will bring researchers from both institutions and other Australian experts in the field to Melbourne.

Both Monash and the Weizmann Institute are world leaders in obesity and diabetes research. Monash boasts an impressive concentration of researchers in this area, under the banner of the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute (MODI) and Monash Obesity Research Initiative (MORI) and associated institutes such as Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. 

The Weizmann Institute is one of the world's top-ranked multidisciplinary research institutions. A team of 10 visiting Weizmann scientists is tackling obesity from a variety of angles including looking at cellular mechanisms in the brain and other organs. 

Professor Iain Clarke of the Monash University who with Professor Alon Chen of the Wiezmann Institute, was an early supporter of the symposium, said obesity was caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

“To tackle complex problems like obesity will require team approaches involving many different skill sets,” Professor Clarke said.

"This symposium will explore linkages between Israel and Australia, which elevates our ability to combat the rapid emergence of obesity throughout the world.”

Professor Chen is collaborating with Australian scientists to prove that a family of proteins in the brain of mice are responsible for turning off the “stress response” and he believes this may lead to a new drug for anxiety disorders such as anorexia and overeating.

“How you cope with stress is a key player in determining your risk of obesity,” Professor Chen said. 

Monash University's Professor Paul Zimmet, Director Emeritus of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, is a scientific advisory committee member of Weizmann Australia.  

“Science knows no borders,” Professor Zimmet said.

“Obesity is proving to be a highly complex disease and nearly every drug so far developed for obesity hasn’t proved safe enough. We have to find the magic bullet, and only continued scientific research will get us there.” 

The symposium is the first of Weizmann Australia’s ‘Making Connections’ Program – encouraging international collaborations between Weizmann scientists and Australian researchers.

Provided by Monash University

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