Dr. Qingchun Tong
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Institute of Molecular Medicine
Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Disease
Our primary research interest is to elucidate neurocircuits and behavior. We aims to map novel functionally important neurocircuits and understand the physiology of known neurocircuits. Specifically, we are interested in disease conditions of abnormal feeding and related emotional states, and obesity development. The current obesity epidemic and its associated metabolic syndrome have imposed unprecedented challenges to society and medicine, but with no apparent effective therapeutics. Our research is directed to understand the fundamental mechanistic insights on key driving causes for defective feeding and body weight regulation, therefore providing conceptual and effective targets for prevention and treatment of eating disorders, obesity and its associated diabetes.
Toward our goals, we employ various animal models in combination with the state of the art techniques including electrophysiology, optogenetics, chemogenetics, in vivo live Ca2+ imaging and various neural tracing methods. Cre-lox P mouse genetics is used to achieve neuron-specific manipulations in the brain. Various adenoassociated viral vectors (AAV) harboring genes that exhibit Cre-dependent expression will be delivered to specific brain regions of Cre-expressing neurons, achieving neuron-expression of foreign tool genes. Example foreign genes include specific channels that either activate or inhibit neurons. In addition, virus based tracing is used to map specific neural projections and their implications in physiology and behaviors. In addition, we are exploring to use CRISPR/Cas9 technology to achieve neuron-specific gene deletion in adult mice. We will also combine the newly available Flpo lines and Flpo-dependent AAV vectors with the existing Cre-loxP system to achieve more specific targeting and tracing functional neurocircuits. These advanced techniques ensure our studies are effective and conclusions are insightful.
Students will have opportunities to map neurocircuits and behavior, and related metabolic studies using animal models with neuron-specific manipulations. Optogenetics, chemogenetics, in vivo Ca2+ imaging, neural tracing, Immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization, animal physiology and animal surgery are routinely used in the lab. Tutorial is available to highly motivated students.