Basic Sciences Division, Fred Hutch
Dr. Akhila Rajan studies how bodies sense how much energy they have available, and how this information then influences factors such as activity and hunger. Our bodies store energy as fat, to be used later when external sources of energy run low. How much energy is stored is an important piece of information that influences behavior. For example, as our bodies sense that our energy stores are dropping, hunger, and the drive to find more food, will increase. But a dysfunctional energy-sensing system may underlie obesity, in which our bodies may not properly sense that we have enough energy stored already. Dr. Rajan uses fruit flies to understand how fat signals the brain, and how chronic nutrient surplus disrupts this communication. She hopes to reveal fundamental insights into this nutrient-sensing network that could point the way toward strategies to tackle obesity.
Mechanisms that govern maintenance of healthy energy balance
How fat cells sense alterations in nutritional stores and regulate adipokine production
How adipokines access the brain
How fat sensing neurons respond to adipokines
How over-nutrition causes ‘loss of plasticity’ in homeostasis