Neuroimmunology and the Gut-Brain Axis
Dr. Glenn Dorsam
Obesity afflicts more than 1.4 billion people worldwide, is associated with comorbidities such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease and will cripple our health care system in the coming years by costing billions of dollars for treatment. Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is a gut hormone, which is elevated in obese humans. A recent report showed the VIP signaling axis is the most prevalent observed molecular pathway out of 963 analyzed to predispose humans to obesity development. Unfortunately, the mechanistic pathways linking VIP signaling to obesity are currently unknown and represents a critical need for investigation. Without mechanistic understanding of these pathways, improved intervention protocols, as well as preventive strategies to mitigate obesity, will elude the medical community leading to half of our population being at risk from premature death. It is the objective of our research to collect mechanistic data that link obesity and VIP signaling. We hypothesize that altered VIP signaling contributes to hallmarks of obesity, including changes in metabolism, immunity and the gut microbiota. Successful implementation of our research is expected to show that VIP signaling plays important roles in obesity development by regulating fat deposition, abnormal inflammation and altered gut microbiome composition promoting human obesity and leading to associated human disorders. The Dorsam Research Group will also educate students in a hypothesis-driven, ethically-sound, interdisciplinary training environment aimed at preparing them for highly competitive scientific careers.