Douglas Coleman

Medicine

Obesity

"I didn’t do my research to get awards. I did my research hoping I could help somebody."

May not be Canadian. Moved to USA in 1950s, and settled in Bar Harbor, Maine in 1958 where he stayed all his life at Jackson Laboratories.

Back in 1969 when, working at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbour, Maine, Coleman used an experiment to link the blood supplies of obese mice with those of normal weight. He found that something in the blood of the average mouse turned off the appetite in the obese mouse _ suggesting that weight was not simple the result of behavioural choices, as science believed at the time, but of physiology and that some people may be predisposed to being overweight. “I didn’t look at it as 'eureka' moments at the time,” he recalls. “I just thought it was an interesting finding. I was determined to get the bottom of it as far I could go.”

In the 1970s, he conducted a series of experiments that led him to propose the existence of a 'satiety factor' that would account for obesity and type 2 diabetes among certain mice. Dr. Friedman would later identify that factor as leptin, a hormone that regulates food intake and body weight. As a result of Coleman's and Friedman's research, we now know that adipose tissue is not merely a storage tissue but an endocrine organ that secretes a variety of hormones and cytokines essential for normal development and energy homeostasis. The findings opened the door to new possibilities for treating obesity and diabetes by revealing that they are partly regulated by chemical and genetic factors—not just willpower and eating habits.

The Person