T32 Training Program in Metabolism, Endocrinology and Obesity

Fellow Profiles

Ilan Benador

Predoctoral Fellow

MD/PhD Candidate, Molecular Medicine, Boston University

Hometown: Boston, MA

Mentor: Orian Shirihai, M.D., Ph.D.

Research Focus: Obesity is believed to be caused by an imbalance between nutrient intake and use. I'm investigating the cellular mechanisms that regulate fuel oxidation. I use Seahorse respirometry to assess mitochondrial metabolism in cultured cells and confocal imaging to relate these data to structural changes. Most of my work is with brown adipocytes. Brown adipose tissue has the unique ability to dramatically increase wasteful respiration within minutes of adrenergic stimulation to produce heat for maintaining body temperature.

Karel A. Erion

Predoctoral Fellow

B.S. in Biological Sciences, University of California at Santa Barbara, B.S. in Environmental Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara

Hometown: Del Mar, CA

Mentor: Barbara Corkey, Ph.D

Research Focus:My project is focused on identifying mechanisms that underlie the hypersecretion of insulin by pancreatic beta-cells in the context of obesity. We have identified a process in which intracellular lipid left-shifts the dose-response curve for glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, which may contribute to the hypersecretion observed in obesity. Identifying targets to reduce this hypersecretion of insulin under non stimulatory states may lead to novel therapies to treat obesity and related metabolic abnormalities.

Other interests: Skiing, gardening, hiking, traveling

Sun Y. Lee

Postdoctoral Fellow

M.D., UMDNJ - New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ, B.A. in Chemistry, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

Mentors: Lewis E. Braverman, M.D., Elizabeth N. Pearce, M.D., Msc.

Research Focus: My main research interest is in the field of thyroid disease, especially in pregnancy, and iodine metabolism and nutrition in relation to thyroid disease. My completed projects include a prospective study on iodine clearance and change in thyroid function after exposure to a large amount of iodine from the radiographic contrast media used in CT scans. With significant increase in the use of CT scans in recent years, the exposure to large amount of iodine from CT contrast has also been increasing. The rate of iodine clearance after this large iodine exposure is important in planning for thyroid scans and/or therapy that utilizes radioactive iodine. My future projects include a study assessing the effect of maternal subclinical hypothyroidism on obstetric and perinatal outcomes, given the controversy on the need for screening and treatment of maternal subclinical hypothyroidism during pregnancy.

Jean Z Lin

Postdoctoral Fellow

Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Houston; B.S. in Chemistry, University of San Francisco

Hometown: Honolulu, HI

Mentor: Stephen Farmer, Ph.D.

Research Focus: Obesity and its comorbidities, often referred to as metabolic syndrome, is an accelerating worldwide health crisis. The healthy expansion of adipocytes is crucial to maintain proper metabolic function and avoid lypotoxicity. I am investigating the role of myocardin-related transcription factor A (MRFTA) in adipose tissue function and development. MRTFA KO mice, which have been previously shown to have enhanced beige adipocyte formation and protection from diet-induced obesity, will be used to examine adipose tissue remodeling. I hypothesize that MRTFA is involved in regulating cell fate determination between myofibroblasts and beige adipocytes. Thus I predict that MRTFA KO mice will have less fibrosis in WAT and will be protected from obesity-induced/associated fibrosis, ectopic lipid accumulation and insulin resistance.

Other interests: Movies, food, yoga

Richard Taylor Pickering

Predoctoral Fellow

B.S. Biochemistry, University of Missouri

Hometown: Columbia, MO

Mentor: Susan Fried, Ph.D.

Research Focus: Expansion of visceral adipose tissue is associated with development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Glucocorticoids are powerful regulators of adipose distribution, lipid metabolism, and differentiation and cause preferential expansion of visceral adipose tissue. I am investigating how the differential modulation of the TGFβ family of signaling molecules by glucocorticoids contributes to the poor differentiation capacity of visceral preadipocytes.

Other interests: Other fields of interest include exercise physiology and pharmacology. Outside of the lab I enjoy cycling, manage a women's roller derby team, and play in a men's roller derby league.

Maneet Singh

Postdoctoral Fellow

Ph.D. in Cell Biology, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Masters in Microbial Gene Technology, Madurai Kamaraj University, India, Bachelors in Biomedical Sciences, University of Delhi, India

Hometown: India

Mentor: Konstantin V Kandror, Ph.D.

Research Focus: Adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) hydrolyses lipids stored in adipose tissue. Deregulated lipolysis by ATGL results in release of excessive free fatty acids that lead insulin resistance and metabolic diseases. Previous work from my laboratory indicated that ATGL transcription is regulated by early growth response transcription factor, Egr1. My work suggested that fat specific protein 27 (FSP27) enhances the repressive effects of Egr1 on ATGL gene expression. Collectively, we have proposed a model for regulation of ATGL via FSP27-Egr1.

Recent emerging studies show Egr1 to be involved in adipogenesis, adipocyte differentiation and insulin resistance. However, the mechanism of Egr1 regulation in adipocyte is still not known. Our preliminary studies suggest that insulin induces Egr1 mRNA via ERK pathway and mTORC1 pathway increases translation of Egr1 mRNA. Thus, these studies provide a new pathway for regulation of lipid metabolism.

Other interests: I love to cook, read and write poems. I do love practicing yoga and want to be a yoga teacher or open my own yoga studio.