The primary focus of my research is to investigate mechanisms involved in food intake and weight gain. We are using a variety of approaches and model systems to investigate the underlying pathways implicated in feeding and feeding disorders.
Antipsychotic drugs are highly efficacious treatments for psychiatric disorders a serious side effect of their use is increased food intake, excessive weight gain and subsequent development of metabolic disease. We made the surprising discovery that antipsychotics also induce hyperphagia in C. elegans which allowed us to use an in vivo screening assay to identify potential adjuvant therapies to block antipsychotic-induced food intake. We use mouse models to test potential adjuvant therapies and are beginning to unravel the key pathways involved in antipsychotic-induced food intake. These collaborative studies formed the basis of our R01 grant (1R01DK117872).
The second area of focus is “why is it so hard to maintain weight loss?” Many people can successfully diet to lose weight but the vast majority will regain this weight within a year. Through a series of transcriptomics and metabolomics studies we made the discovery that “memory” of obesity is predominantly found in the adipose tissue. We identified genes that are persistently elevated in obesity and are studying their role in the food intake and the development of obesity and weight regain.
These studies have identified novel pathways implicated in food intake with broad implications in in field of obesity, metabolic disease and psychiatry.