Understanding the Causes of Lipedema Through Fat Tissue Analysis

By June 17, 2022 July 8th, 2024 No Comments

Today, let’s talk about a paper called Key signaling networks are dysregulated in patients with the adipose tissue disorder, lipedema. It’s a study by a research group in Australia and it was published in the peer-reviewed journal International Journal of Obesity in November 2021. The authors were interested in not only learning about and understanding the molecular causes of lipedema but also finding an objective biomarker to identify this disease.

Analyzing the fat tissue

This research found that lipedema fat is driven by stem cells that are different from those found in obesity fat. These lipedema stem cells are in turn driven by an overactive gene pathway that is often found in some cancers. Blocking this pathway stops the lipedema stem cells from overgrowing and generating pathological fat. Therefore, the authors believe that this research may offer both a means of diagnosing and treating this debilitating disease.

The study method was to analyze the fat tissue from 14 women with lipedema compared to ten healthy controls. Specifically, adipose tissue-derived stem cells were extracted from the fat tissue for study.


7,820 different genes were found to be significantly different in lipedema fat versus healthy controls. This was narrowed down to the eight most promising genes to study further.

The bub1 gene, for instance, was chosen for further study due to the role it plays in cell proliferation in several cancers, such as breast and liver cancer. The higher Bub1 expression found in lipedema tissue could result in increased cell proliferation that results in excessive fat tissue.

Other findings include:

  1. Lipedema adipose tissues show distinct differences in the gene signatures and the density of adipose tissue-derived stem cells compared to normal fat.
  2. Adipose tissue-derived stem cells and fat cells in lipedema tissue are functionally distinct from those in obese fat.
  3. Analysis showed altered lipid composition in lipedema fat cells.
  4. “Metabolic profiles are significantly altered in patients with lipedema… and indicate that the metabolites most deranged in lipedema may therefore critically contribute to disease pathogenesis.”
  5. The specific “genes involved in regulating cell growth and proliferation are dysregulated in lipedema” and may contribute to the increased fat cell number, accumulation, and disproportionate distribution of fat in lipedema. Specifically, the overexpression of the bub1 gene in lipedema may be the driver of fat tissue proliferation similar to how this gene causes cancer cells to proliferate.


This study is incredibly important to improving our understanding of the causes and pathology of lipedema. Through analysis of fat tissue in women with lipedema, these researchers have reached important findings that expand our knowledge and understanding of lipedema. As we learn more about how lipedema is different from obesity and perhaps similar to other diseases, we become better at identifying it and may improve our ability to treat it.

For more updates on the latest research regarding lipedema, check out Lipedema Simplified’s Flash Briefings. It’s our daily mini-podcast where we share tips, tools, and research pertaining to Lipedema.

~ Leslyn Keith, OTD, CLT-LANA
Board President, Director of Research | The Lipedema Project

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