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Sunny Huang

Mentor: Val Sheffield, M.D./Ph.D.
Lab Room: 4171 MERF
Lab Phone: 319-335-7311

Understanding the molecular basis of obesity

Obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. In the United States alone, over one third of the adult population and about 17% of adolescents and children are obese. Obesity increases the risk of developing hypertension and results in many preventable causes of death including heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes. In order to address this growing problem and to develop therapeutics, we must understand the molecular basis of obesity.

Due to the multifactorial origin of obesity, parsing out the molecular components and identifying the metabolic mechanisms involved in obesity is difficult. An effective approach to dissecting the molecular basis of obesity is to investigate Mendelian disorders that have phenotypic overlap with obesity. An outstanding example of such a disorder is the genetically heterogeneous, autosomal recessive Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (BBS). BBS is a complex genetic disorder that is clinically diagnosed when at least four major features are present in a patient, with two features being obesity and hypertension. For my thesis work, I will focus on identifying specific genetic and pathophysiological interactions among BBS proteins that may be playing a role in the complex pathways involved in obesity, adipogenesis of brown fat, and hypertension.

Varshney GK, Lu J, Gildea DE, Huang H, Pei W, Yang Z, Huang SC, Schoenfeld D, Pho NH, Casero D, Hirase T, Mosbrook-Davis D, Zhang S, Jao LE, Zhang B, Woods IG, Zimmerman S, Schier AF, Wolfsberg TG, Pellegrini M, Burgess SM, Lin S. A large-scale zebrafish gene knockout resource for the genome-wide study of gene function. Genome research. 2013; 23(4):727-35. PubMed [journal] PMID: 23382537, PMCID: PMC3613589.

Varshney GK, Pei W, LaFave MC, Idol J, Xu L, Gallardo V, Carrington B, Bishop K, Jones M, Li M, Harper U, Huang SC, Prakash A, Chen W, Sood R, Ledin J, Burgess SM. High-throughput gene targeting and phenotyping in zebrafish using CRISPR/Cas9. Genome research. 2015; 25(7):1030-42. PubMed [journal] PMID: 26048245, PMCID: PMC4484386.

Pei W, Huang SC, Xu L, Pettie K, Ceci ML, Sánchez M, Allende ML, Burgess SM. Loss of Mgat5a-mediated N-glycosylation stimulates regeneration in zebrafish. Cell regeneration (London, England). 2016; 5:3. PubMed [journal] PMID: 27795824, PMCID: PMC5072312.

Pei W, Tanaka K, Huang SC, Xu L, Liu B, Sinclair J, Idol J, Varshney GK, Huang H, Lin S, Nussenblatt RB, Mori R, Burgess SM. Extracellular HSP60 triggers tissue regeneration and wound healing by regulating inflammation and cell proliferation. NPJ Regenerative medicine. 2016; 1. NIHMSID: NIHMS887840 PubMed [journal] PMID: 28936359, PMCID: PMC5605149.

Pei W, Xu L, Varshney GK, Carrington B, Bishop K, Jones M, Huang SC, Idol J, Pretorius PR, Beirl A, Schimmenti LA, Kindt KS, Sood R, Burgess SM. Additive reductions in zebrafish PRPS1 activity result in a spectrum of deficiencies modeling several human PRPS1-associated diseases. Scientific reports. 2016; 6:29946. PubMed [journal] PMID: 27425195, PMCID: PMC4947902.

Pei W, Xu L, Huang SC, Pettie K, Idol J, Rissone A, Jimenez E, Sinclair JW, Slevin C, Varshney GK, Jones M, Carrington B, Bishop K, Huang H, Sood R, Lin S, Burgess SM. Guided genetic screen to identify genes essential in the regeneration of hair cells and other tissues. NPJ Regenerative medicine. 2018; 3:11. PubMed [journal] PMID: 29872546, PMCID: PMC5986822.