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
Obesity and its associated complications are imposing a huge burden to our society, while its effective treatment is still lacking. A better understanding of the mechanisms regulating energy balance is required to develop new therapeutic strategies. Neurons in the hypothalamus receive and integrate nutritional status signals, and then adjust food intake and energy expenditure accordingly to maintain energy balance. Previous research has identified important functions of a few groups of hypothalamic neurons (e.g. POMC neurons, AgRP neurons, etc.) and a few hypothalamic genes (POMC, AgRP and MC4R, etc.). However, the mechanisms with which the hypothalamus regulates energy balance are not well understood.
The research focus of my group is to understand how neurocircuitry in the hypothalamus regulates energy balance. Various animal models with brain region specific manipulations will be used in combination with optogenetics, DREADDs and in vivo live Ca2+ imaging technology to delineate specific neural pathways underlying specific physiologic functions and to understand the neural basis for emotional control of feeding.
In addition, we are also interested in understanding how the brain controls energy expenditure and mediates responses to high-caloric, high-fat diet (HFD) feeding through communicating with peripheral metabolic tissues with an aim to identify key tissues/mediators that are important to mediate appropriate responses to HFD feeding and could be used to better cope with HFD feeding.
Students will have opportunities to examine the central mechanisms underlying feeding, energy expenditure and glucose homeostasis using animal models with neuron-specific knockouts. Immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization, animal physiology, glucose and insulin tolerance tests, and animal surgery will be routinely used in the lab. Tutorial is available to highly motivated students.