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PhD student Jing Cai has research published in Cell Reports

August 30, 2023 By: Tracey Barnett/ MD Anderson UTHealth Houston Graduate School

PhD student Jing Cai has research published in Cell Reports

Neuroscience PhD student Jing Cai published a first-author paper titled “AgRP neurons are not indispensable for body weight maintenance in adult mice,” in the July 25 Issue of Cell Reports. Her advisor is Qingchun Tong, PhD.

“This work is a collaboration with another lab from University of Science and Technology of China,” said Cai. “We used complimentary genetics methods to achieve specific ablation of a group of hypothalamic neurons and overturned the long-lasting dogma in the field that these neurons were required for survival and body weight maintenance. This work will contribute to the ‘thrifting gene’ theory that the neural circuits in body weight regulation bias toward the direction of body weight gain and obesity development.”

“Jing performed a series of technically demanding experiments, convincingly demonstrating that lesion of AgRP neurons in adult mice caused no obvious impact on feeding or body weight, said Tong. "Because these results are so in contrast to the well-established 'textbook' dogma that loss of AgRP neurons in adults causes starvation to death, we had experienced a very hard time in getting the manuscript accepted despite the fact that it got reviewed by most of the high impact journals. During the publication process, Jing has exhibited an extraordinary level of patience in designing more rigorous experiments to address reviewers’ concerns. It is gratifying to see that Jing has grown so much, not only in performing scientific research but also in publishing results.” 

Cai’s curiosity for scientific questions led her to the Neuroscience Program at the Graduate School. With over 70 faculty members from different backgrounds and research focuses, she is able to explore various projects and collaborations.

“In addition, the GSBS community has always been welcoming and supportive to graduate students,” added Cai.  

She is also the recipient of several awards from the school, including the Russell and Diana Hawkins Family Foundation Discovery Fellowship (2021-2023); Investing in Student Futures Scholarship (2022-2023); and Dee S. and Patricia Osborne Endowed Scholarship in the Neurosciences.

“My goal is to become an independent researcher and contribute to the development of neuroscience and animal behaviors study,” said Cai.

When asked what advice she would give first year students, Cai stated that “it is never too early to have a plan, but also be patient and flexible if anything does not go as you planned.”

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