Elucidating the Fates and Functions of Lactate in the Brain

2023 Seed Grant
Nora Kory, Ph.D.
Harvard University

The human brain requires significant energy to function. Despite accounting for only 2% of our body weight, the brain consumes a substantial 20% of the body’s energy, relying on a continuous supply of fuel from the bloodstream. Glucose serves as the brain’s primary energy source, undergoing breakdown into ATP, a crucial energy molecule in nerve cells. Additionally, the brain can utilize alternative energy sources like ketones and lactate. Traditionally seen as a metabolic waste product, recent research has revealed that lactate can actually provide energy to the brain. In fact, lactate contributes nearly 20% of the brain’s energy supply while also playing a role in regulating cell fate and acting as a signaling molecule within the brain. Dr. Kory’s objective is to determine how lactate is distributed within different sections of nerve cells and how this process impacts energy production and neuronal functions. Dr. Kory’s lab will examine the various lactate reservoirs in neurons and investigate the mechanisms by which lactate enters membrane bound compartments within nerve cells. By unraveling the role o lactate in the brain, they aim to develop novel treatments for conditions such as epilepsy, neurodegenerative disorders, and psychiatric ailments.

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