Metabolism: From Brain to Periphery, and Back
A big part of our work is investigating how both circadian rhythms and stress affect metabolism. But not just in the way you normally think. We are certainly focused on metabolism and metabolic syndrome in the periphery. Determining how disrupting the clock or exposure to high levels of stress hormones can drive metabolic dysregulation and lead to obesity and diabetes. Both disrupted circadian and sleep rhythms, as well as stress are known drivers of cardio metabolic disorders, obesity, and diabetes.
We are also really interested in metabolism in the brain. Neurons have a very high metabolic load, and how they get all this energy, and manage it, is an area of very active research in neuroscience. Many neurological diseases are related to mitochondrial dysfunction and energy mishandling in neurons. We are interested in how the circadian clock helps maintain optimal neurometabolic function, and if disrupting the circadian clock leads to defects in the ability of neurons and glial cells to respond to additional challenges.
Our main goals in this research area are to:
1) Determine the mechanisms by which circadian disruption leads to metabolic dysregulation and obesity, with a specific focus on the liver. This work is funded by an R01 from NIDDK.
2) Understand the role of the circadian clock in regulating neurometabolic processes, and if disrupting the clock leads to deficits in metabolic capacity of neurons and glia. This work is funded by an NSF CAREER award.
3) Investigate how "stress hormones" affect central and peripheral metabolic processes, and the underlying mechanisms that contribute to metabolic effects of glucocorticoids.
We use a combination of approaches, including detailed in vivo analyses of behavior and changes in metabolic function, including the use of implantable biosensors to detect real time changes in brain metabolic processes. We also apply ex vivo approaches, including gene expression, assays of mitochondrial function in brain and peripheral cells, immunohistochemistry, and measures of change in immune mediators in plasma and tissues.