Fat to Brain Communication: Inter-organ Transport of Mitochondrial Molecules

2022 Seed Grant
Akhila Rajan, Ph.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Dementia Society of America Seed Grant

Increased life expectancy has resulted in a higher incidence of age-related dementia, but treatments remain elusive. Obesity has been established as an independent risk factor for developing dementia. Yet, the mechanisms by which increased mid-life adiposity contributes to neuronal dysregulation, and subsequently to late-life dementia, remain largely unknown. This proposal seeks to address this fundamental gap by defining how adipocytes control brain function. Adipocyte to brain communication is critical to maintaining energy homeostasis. The molecular nature of how adipocytes talk to the brain is yet to be fully defined. Now excitingly, we found that Drosophila adipocytes transfer mitochondrial components to the central brain. Dr. Rajan’s observation that adipocyte-derived mitochondrial components are transferred to the brain hints at a novel mechanism by which adipocytes regulates brain physiology. Here, with support from the BRF, Dr. Rajan’s laboratory proposes to identify how fat-to-brain mitochondrial transfer occurs. Their investigations will lay the foundations for future understanding of how increased adiposity triggers neuronal decline and dementia. Crucially, Dr. Rajan’s findings will help develop novel strategies to treat and manage neurodegenerative disorders.

Other Grants

Rebekah C. Evans, Ph.D., Georgetown University
In Vivo and Ex Vivo Dissection of Midbrain Neuron Activity During Exercise
Exercise is important for the health of the body and the mind. Exercise promotes learning and reduces symptoms of brain-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it…
William J. Giardino, Ph.D. Stanford University
Deciphering the Neuropeptide Circuitry of Emotional Arousal in Narcolepsy
This research project aims to investigate the neural mechanisms of a specific type of brain cell called neuropeptide neurons within a region of the brain’s amygdala network called the bed…
Howard Gritton, Ph.D., University of Illinois
Attention Mechanisms Contributing to Auditory Spatial Processing.
Our world is composed of a rich mixture of sounds. We often process sounds including speech in the presence of many other competing auditory stimuli (e.g., voices in a crowded…
Nora Kory, Ph.D., Harvard University
Elucidating the Fates and Functions of Lactate in the Brain
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…