We are working to understand human metabolism and what happens when this biological system breaks down. The problem is more important than ever, given the increasing burden that diabetes and other metabolic dysfunctions have on human health and society.



Blocking Immune Cell Treats New Type of Age-Related Diabetes

Diabetes is often the result of obesity and poor diet choices, but for some older adults the disease might simply be a consequence of aging. New research has discovered that diabetes—or insulin resistance—in aged, lean mice has a different cellular cause than the diabetes that results from weight gain (type 2). And the findings point toward a possible cure for what the co-leading scientists, Ronald Evans and Ye Zheng, are now calling a new kind of diabetes (type 4). In mice with age-related disease, the labs found abnormally high levels of immune cells called T regulatory cells (Tregs) inside fat tissue.

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Fighting Liver Fibrosis, the Wound that Never Heals

Chronic damage to the liver eventually creates a wound that never heals. This condition, called fibrosis, gradually replaces normal liver cells—which detoxify the food and liquid we consume—with more and more scar tissue until the organ no longer works. Scientists led by Ronald Evans have identified a drug that halts this unchecked accumulation of scar tissue in the liver. The small molecule, called JQ1, prevented as well as reversed fibrosis in animals and could help the millions of people worldwide affected by liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, caused by alcoholism and diseases like hepatitis. These results were published in PNAS the week of December 7, 2015.

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Cell Metabolism

New Tie Between Cholesterol and Bone Density

Alan Saghatelian and collaborators at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center uncovered how lipid metabolism is involved in maintaining bone health. Using a method developed in the Saghatelian lab, the team discovered that cholesterol can bind to a protein called estrogen-related receptor alpha that regulates bone density. This finding, published in Cell Metabolism on January 14, 2016, suggests that drugs commonly used to manage cholesterol levels also impact bone density and points to newer and better drugs to treat bone diseases.


How the Cell’s Power Station Survives Attacks

Mitochondria, the power generators in our cells, are essential for life. When they are under attack—from poisons, environmental stress or genetic mutations—cells wrench these power stations apart, strip out the damaged pieces and reassemble them into usable mitochondria. Now, Reuben Shaw’s lab has uncovered an unexpected way in which cells trigger this critical response to threats, offering insight into disorders such as mitochondrial disease, cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases—particularly Parkinson’s disease, which is linked to dysfunctional mitochondria. The work was published January 15, 2016 in Science.
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