Damon Runyon Researchers

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Lucy Liu, PhD

Dr. Liu is using an in vivo experimental system to study how organs communicate with one another, specifically how the brain is influenced by factors produced in distant tissues. Our brains are protected from toxins and other harmful substances in the rest of our bodies by the blood-brain-barrier. Although the brain is isolated, there is significant clinical evidence demonstrating that changes in the body can significantly alter brain function. For example, a significant percentage of post-treatment cancer patients experience temporary or prolonged memory deficits after chemotherapy and radiation, known colloquially as chemo-brain. Though the epidemiological data is clear, we do not currently know which molecules cause alterations in brain function nor what mechanisms drive these changes. As fat tissues secret a multitude of proteins that affect systemic functions, her goals are to first identify factors that signal from fat tissues to alter brain function and then explore the mechanisms by which these proteins elicit neurological changes. These findings will give novel insights into how organs communicate with one another in healthy and disease states, which may be key to the development of novel therapies for all types of cancers.

Project title: "The fat-brain axis: identifying the roles of adipokine signaling in nervous system function"
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Norbert Perrimon, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cancer Genetics