Environmental stress and the brain

The last few decades has seen a marked increase in the incidence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in Western Societies resulting in a significant individual and societal health costs. Understanding those mechanisms that contribute to the development of obesity and disorders of glucose homeostasis are therefore critical areas of research. It is increasingly recognized that the brain contributes to the development of both diabetes and obesity. In particular the brain contains specialized glucosensing neurons that respond directly to alterations in the glucose level to which they are exposed and initiate whole body responses designed to maintain glucose homeostasis. Other than glucose these neurons respond to and are influenced by a number of other metabolites (e.g. lactate), hormones (e.g. insulin and leptin) and neuropeptides (e.g. urocortin).

This project will focus on the modulatory role of inflammation on hypothalamic glucosensing neurons and examine the effect of acute, intermittent and chromic exposure to inflammatory mediators as well as the intra-cellular signaling pathways through which they exert their effects. We will ask whether chronic inflammation can negatively impact on critical neurons involved in glucose homestasis and through this contribute to disease development. The availability of a unique, validated hypothalamic glucosensing cell line in our laboratory will facilitate this project. This project can, depending on the student, be focused around using in vitro, ex-vivo or in vivo techniques.

This position will suit any applicants interested in pursuing scientific research in the areas of neuroscience, diabetes, inflammation or cancer.

Professor Rory J McCrimmon
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