Two new labs approach diabetes in different ways
The fourth quarter of 2019 brought the launch of two new labs in the Diabetes Center: Flak Lab and Witczak Lab. First, we welcomed Jonathan Flak, PhD, and his expertise in the central nervous system’s regulation of glucose metabolism. Dr. Flak added David Johnson to his team and together they are focused on investigating the neurocircuits that are critical to obesity and diabetes.
Then, we introduced Carol Witczak, PhD, who is an expert in the molecular and cellular factors that regulate muscle metabolism. Her research with Parker Evans is centered around understanding the molecular and cellular factors that regulate skeletal muscle glucose uptake and metabolism in response to type 2 diabetes and exercise.
Exploration of neurodevelopmental delay and seizures
Teresa Mastracci, PhD, and her lab team continued their work on the polyamine and hypusine biosynthesis pathway. In 2019, Mastracci published a significant paper in the American Journal of Human Genetics identifying rare recessive gene variants in deoxyhypusine synthase that result in neurodevelopmental delay and seizures in humans.
This previously unknown monogenic disease is now known as “DHPS Deficiency.” She presented this work at the Gordon Research Conference. Mastracci also received a grant from the DHPS Foundation entitled, “The role of human DHPS mutations in development and disease,” to continue her work in this area.
In 2019, Robert Considine, PhD, continued his research into how the brain responds to sweet tastes. He presented data to the American Diabetes Association and the Obesity Society that showed women with obesity have greater activation of brain areas in response to oral sucrose than normal weight women, even though there is no difference in their preferred sweet taste.
Food choice, determined to a large extent by our brain, is crucial in maintaining normal body weight, and understanding these complex processes will help to clarify the ongoing obesity epidemic.