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FOEDRC Faculty Won Two Major Awards

Type 2 diabetes which is closely linked to obesity is a major cause of death due to the many associated illnesses including heart disease. However, our understanding of the biological processes and factors that links type 2 diabetes to obesity and heart disease is limited. FOEDRC faculty Dr. Ling Yang’s research program is aimed at filling this major gap in knowledge. Recently, Dr. Yang was bestowed 2 major awards totaling more than $2.5 million to support her research program. One award was granted to her by the American Heart Association so she can study the communication that takes place between the liver and heart. We know from previous research that the heart requires a significant amount of fat-based fuels to work properly. These good fats are partially provided by the liver through a process that involve a molecule called IRE1. Dr. Yang and her colleagues discovered that when the liver does not have a functional IRE1, it is unable to supply fats to other organs including the heart. The new award will allow her laboratory to decipher how this process works, and to decode whether its perturbation damages the heart. The second award was granted to Dr. Yang by the National Institutes of Health. This project focuses on understanding the function of brown adipose tissue, a special type of body fat that can shed excess calories in the form of heat. Previous work has established that obesity is associated with reduction in brown fat activity and that stimulation of this fat protects against the deleterious effects of obesity and diabetes. Dr. Yang’s research aims to understand how this special fat losses its beneficial activity in obesity. Her laboratory identified a lower level of a protein called ADH5 as a potential culprit in obesity-associated reduction in brown fat activity. The new award will allow Dr. Ling to understand what drives the reduction in ADH5 levels. She also plans to test whether restoring ADH5 function in brown fat can rescue obesity and type 2 diabetes. Thus, the support afforded by the two new awards will allow Dr. Ling and her team to gain important knowledge which can pave the way for the development of new therapies and reduce the burdens of obesity and diabetes