This research programme aims to understand the biological processes controlling what we eat and how we store and use energy. These pathways are disturbed in obesity and related metabolic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, and this knowledge will, ultimately, lead to development of new treatments for these disorders. We know that an individual’s genetic make up plays a significant role in determining their susceptibility to developing obesity and its deleterious consequences. Recent scientific and technological advances have made it substantially easier to analyse human genetic code.
We aim to exploit data from human genetic studies to gain fundamental insights into what causes human obesity, and propose to combine these genetic studies with laboratory studies based around cell lines and whole animal models to better understand the pathways involved.
This programme builds upon our previous work centred around a large group of patients from around the world who developed severe obesity as children and who have formed the basis for subsequent detailed studies on food intake and energy use. While humans will always be our experimental subject of choice, there are important questions regarding mechanism which require alternative approaches. In particular, we plan to use rodent models to explore aspects of disease processes that cannot be readily addressed in humans. Further, rodents have the advantage of being readily susceptible to genetic manipulation allowing precise alteration of specific genes and, importantly, the creation of animal models of relevant, specific, human diseases.