Damon Runyon Researchers

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Mingjian Du, PhD

Global increases in metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes are likely related to the overconsumption of hyper-palatable, cheap, ultra-processed food containing high amounts of added sugar and fat. Intriguingly, the vagus nerve has been discovered as the key conduit relaying information about sugar or fat ingestion from the gut to the brain, where a preference for sugar or fat is then developed and reinforced. Dr. Du [HHMI Fellow] aims to understand how the neurons are organized in the gut-brain vagal axis to sense sugar and fat, and to identify and characterize the neural circuits downstream of the gut-brain vagal axis that produce an insatiable appetite for sugar and fat. Understanding the basic biology of the gut-brain axis can provide important insights and strategies to help combat overconsumption of highly processed foods rich in sugar and fat, which may contribute to lowering the risk of metabolic diseases and cancer. Dr. Du received his PhD from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas and his BS from the Tsinghua University, Beijing.


Project title: "The gut-brain axis mediating overnutrition"
Institution: Columbia University
Named Award: HHMI Fellow
Award Program: Fellow
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Charles S. Zuker, PhD
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Neuroscience