Women?s susceptibility to obesity is rooted in a ?thrifty? metabolism which offered evolutionary advantage during starvation;
however, on a Western diet or after menopause, women store fat in visceral fat depots, which increase risks for premature
death, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer in women. Mechanisms responsible for ?thrifty? metabolism in
females are not well understood. Recent studies suggest that vitamin A metabolism controls fat formation by regulation of key
transcriptional and signaling pathways. Using a mutant mouse model, we show that visceral fat formation in female mice depends
on the processing of vitamin A in the body. A vitamin A-derived hormone, retinoic acid, is produced in human and rodents by
the aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (Aldh1a1, a2, a3) family of enzymes. Aldh1 enzymes are expressed in a fat depot- and sex-specific
manner. The deficient production of retinoic acid, in mutant Aldh1a1-null female mice helps them to withstand visceral obesity
and glucose intolerance induced by both diet as well as by estrogen deprivation, resembling postmenopausal changes in women.
Many clinical studies suggest that diseases should be treated differently in women and men. Aldh1a1 enzyme, generating retinoic
acid in mice, also produces retinoic acid in women and could represent a potential therapeutic target for treatment of visceral
obesity in a sex-specific fashion.
Ouliana Ziouzenkova is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University (OSU), Department of Human Nutrition. After receiving a bachelor?s and
master?s degree from The State University ?Schewtchenko?, Kiev, Ukraine, Dr. Ziouzenkova completed her Ph.D. at the University of Graz, Austria
in 1997. She performed her post-doctoral studies at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA from 1997 to 1999 and at Brigham
and Women?s Hospital (BWH), Boston, MA from 1999 to 2003. She was an Instructor in Medicine from 2003 to 2007 in the same institution. Dr.
Ziouzenkova has been honored with the Louis and Norman Katz Basic Science Award by the American Heart Association in 2002, the Lerner Young
Faculty Award at BWH in 2004, and the New Investigator Award by the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences in 2007. She holds four patents
and authors 36 publications and book chapters. She serves on an editorial board of ?Vitamins & Trace Elements?. Dr. Ziouzenkova leads a research
team fostering innovative approaches in gender-specific anti-obesity therapies that are based on metabolic products of vitamin A.
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