PI: Cory T Williams, PhD
Key Personnel: Helen Chmura, PhD; Cassie Duncan
The Williams lab is currently using hibernators as models for understanding the role of hypothalamic tanycytes as integrators of energy metabolism. Tanycytes are specialized glial cells that occupy the floor and lateral walls of the third ventricle; their “end feet” extend to fenestrated capillaries where they play an integral role in allowing circulating signals of hunger and satiety to enter the brain to reach neurons that govern energy balance. Hibernators naturally cycle between intervals of hyperphagia during which they rapidly fatten, and intervals of hibernation where they fast for up to 9 consecutive months, and thus show unparalleled variability in energy balance across their annual cycle. Using hibernators as models for understanding how tanycytes coordinate metabolism could ultimately lead to the development of valuable tools for modulating hypothalamic functions such as caloric intake and expenditure, in order to tackle prevalent eating disorders such as obesity and anorexia.