Director and Professor of Medicine
Over the past decade, two startling health statistics have captured widespread public attention: first, that all children born in the year 2000 face a one-in-three chance of developing diabetes during their lifetime; second, that nearly one-third of the US population is overweight or obese. Although both physical activity and nutrition are tied to this epidemic, new evidence from clinical and experimental research has pinpointed a role for disruption in the circadian system and sleep in obesity and diabetes. The internal circadian system can be thought of as an integrator of information that enables individuals to optimally time internal systems with the rising and setting of the sun.
The primary research focus in our laboratory is to understand the molecular mechanisms through which the circadian clock regulates cell and organismal metabolism and the reciprocal feedback of metabolism on circadian oscillators in animals. Our long-range goal is to exploit insight into the clock to identify regulatory nodes within metabolic pathways important in beta cell biology, mitochondrial function, NAD+ biosynthesis, NAD+ dependent ADP-ribosylation and deacetylation reactions, and to determine the impact of these epigenetic modifications on proliferation and stress response. These studies will elucidate the relationship amongst brain, behavior, and physiology at both the cell and molecular level. We anticipate that a better understanding of clock processes will lead to innovative therapeutics for a spectrum of diseases including diabetes, obesity, autoimmunity, and cancer.