The evolutionary basis of metabolic disorders? Understanding complex regulatory networks that control metabolic traits using the fruit fly as a model
Major metabolic diseases such as Diabetes and Obesity are typical lifestyle diseases, meaning that their prevalence is tightly associated with western lifestyle. Although lifestyle diseases showed a very recent increase in frequencies, the predisposition to develop these diseases seems to be highly conserved during evolution. In this project, ancient hormonal systems are in the center of interest. Using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model, their role in maintaining a homeostatic situation, but also their contribution to the development of diseases such as Diabetes and Obesity should be assessed.
Ancient ways to protect cells from premature death – how to deal with Parkinson’s disease and Diabetes
This project focuses on two disease models that aim to understand how dopamine- (Parkinson’s disease model) or insulin (Type I diabetes model)-producing cells can escape from death in disease promoting environments. Using an approach based on the concept of Evolutionary Medicine, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster should be employed as a model. Those molecular events that occur en route to cell death should be identified and those signaling pathways deciphered that might interfere with this development. Moreover, concepts of experimental evolution should be applied to focus on molecular alterations within these cells that might protect them.
How does the brain-gut axis contribute to maintain intestinal homeostasis
The major aim of this project is to understand how the nervous system interacts with the intestine in order to keep a homeostatic situation between the intestinal epithelium and the indigenous microbiota. For this, the mechanisms underlying this gut brain crosstalk should be elucidated using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model and this information should be used to manipulate these components using tailored transgenic models. Moreover, the contribution of the different components (special cell populations in the brain and in the gut) for the animal’s fitness should be quantified.