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Siegfried Ussar
Matthias Tunger Photodesign

Interview "We develop innovative prevention strategies to maintain metabolic health"

New research unit “Adipocytes & Metabolism” (ADM) at the Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HDC)

New research unit “Adipocytes & Metabolism” (ADM) at the Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HDC)

Dr. Siegfried Ussar, Head of the new research unit “Adipocytes & Metabolism” at Helmholtz Munich, is researching ways to decouple obesity and its metabolic complications. This is particularly important given the significant health problems caused by cardiovascular diseases such as type 2 diabetes. In his research, Ussar is analyzing how environmental and hormonal signals affect the function of adipose tissue and impair its ability to store excess calories as fat. The aim is to decipher the role of cell surface proteins that could act as targets for future therapies.

Dr. Siegfried Ussar in an interview about his new research unit “Adipocytes & Metabolism” (ADM) at the Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HDC) at Helmholtz Munich.

What challenges do you see in your new role as head of the "Adipocytes & Metabolism" research unit?

SU: The biggest challenge is and remains to translate our scientific findings into new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of metabolic diseases, especially insulin resistance and prediabetes. Close and trusting cooperation between scientists, various administrative departments at Helmholtz Munich and our industrial partners is essential for this.

What research priorities do you want to tackle with your new research unit?

SU: At the core of our research is the preservation or restoration of the physiological functions of adipose tissue in the context of obesity to maintain a functioning metabolism. In this context, our research focuses on the development of molecules that selectively deliver drugs to adipose tissue and the identification of individual proteins or signaling pathways that are essential for maintaining adipose tissue function.

Why is your research important for health research?

SU: Our research serves as a crucial link between nutritional sciences, endocrinology, and diabetology. A central element of our work is to meaningfully complement existing and future weight reduction therapy approaches, aiming to counteract the increased risk of developing metabolic diseases upon renewed weight gain or, ideally, avoid them altogether. Additionally, our research contributes to a better understanding of the origin and progression of prediabetes, making a significant contribution to the prevention of metabolic diseases.

What is your vision for the research unit “Adipocytes & Metabolism”?

SU: My vision is to address the upcoming challenges regarding metabolic consequences due to an aging society, climate change, and continuous changes in our dietary habits. This can only be achieved through collaboration with my highly qualified team, which brings excellent expertise in the fields of metabolism research, pharmacology, and adipose tissue research. In close cooperation with our colleagues at the HDC, Helmholtz Munich, and our national and international partners, we aim to develop innovative prevention strategies for maintaining metabolic health.

Latest update: February 2024.

Find out more about Siegfried Ussar

Siegfried Ussar studied Genetics at the University of Vienna and earned his PhD in Biochemistry from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich under the supervision of Prof. Reinhard Fässler at the Max-Planck Institute for Biochemistry. Supported by a Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) fellowship, Siegfried Ussar then worked as a Postdoc with Prof. C. Ronald Kahn at the Joslin Diabetes Center of Harvard Medical School, where he deepened his interest in adipose tissue biology and the systemic effects of insulin action. In 2014, Siegfried was appointed to the Institute for "Diabetes & Obesity" at Helmholtz Munich to establish his independent research group focusing on the metabolic impact of adipose tissues. From 2018 to 2023, he has been acting deputy director at the Institute for "Diabetes & Obesity" at Helmholtz Munich. From 2024 he is Head of the new research unit “Adipocytes & Metabolism” at Helmholtz Munich.