Many human diseases, such as diabetes, neurodegeneration, cancer and heart problems, are linked to old age. Our laboratory studies the interface between cellular metabolism and signal transduction, with a specific focus on key steps in glucose and lipid metabolism, in order to understand the ways that nutrients can delay aging effects and thus postpone the onset of disease.
Glucose is a vital, highly regulated metabolite in the human body. Its concentration is tightly controlled within a narrow range by factors secreted from several tissues. Too much glucose uptake leads to systemic problems that partly stem from oxidative stress generated by the mitochondria. Our lab examines the mechanism by which cells control glucose uptake, what regulates the flux from glucose to unwanted lipid accumulation, and how mitochondrial function is affected by glucose concentration.
We utilize a variety of systems and techniques to accomplish our goals. At the atomic scale, we employ cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to solve the structures of transporter proteins and their regulators. At the cellular level, we investigate how cells respond to metabolic stress. And at the organism level, we integrate cellular responses with systemic responses to understand how diet can modify and curb unwanted oxidative damage. This research will provide better insight into the relationship between diet and health and open the possibility of individualized diet recommendations to delay aging effects.