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Faculty and Research

Susan Aja
Susan Aja

Susan Aja
Department of Psychiatry and Brain Sciences

Dr. Aja studies the role of the protein AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) as an energy gauge in the hypothalamus. AMPK potentially senses and integrates metabolic, neural, and hormonal signals of bodily energy status. Her lab aims to understand the involvement of AMPK in controlling food intake and energy expenditure to regulate adiposity and body weight. AMPK activity might be affected by hypothalamic neuronal fatty acid metabolism. Her team also is interested in understanding how AMPK activity adjusts hypothalamic neuropeptide outputs to control energy balance as well as physiological and behavioral outcomes.


Lili Barouch
Lili Barouch

Lili Barouch
Center for Metabolism and Obesity Research
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Dr. Barouch’s laboratory is focused on defining the peripheral cardiovascular effects of the adipocytokine leptin, which is a key to the understanding of obesity-related cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, many of the hormonal abnormalities seen in obesity are mimicked in heart failure. The research program will enhance the understanding of metabolic signaling in the heart, including the effects of leptin, exercise, sex hormones, and downstream signaling pathways on metabolism and cardiovascular function. The lab also is working to determine the precise role of the “metabolic” beta-3 adrenergic receptor (ß3AR) in the heart and define the extent of its protective effect in obesity and in heart failure, including its role in maintaining nitric oxide synthase (NOS) coupling. Ultimately, this work will enable the exploration of a possible therapeutic role of ß3AR agonists and re-coupling of NOS in preventing adverse ventricular remodeling in obesity and in heart failure.  


Todd Brown
Todd Brown

Todd Brown
Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism

Todd T. Brown, MD, PhD is a clinical investigator who focuses on body composition, metabolic, and skeletal abnormalities in HIV-infected patients and their interaction.  Through several ongoing epidemiologic studies, he has been interested in clarifying epidemiology and risk factors for insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, and anthropometric changes in HIV-infected patients and their relationship to antiretroviral therapy. In addition, he is also actively involved in multiple studies evaluating novel treatments for the metabolic and skeletal abnormalities in HIV-infected patients, including the use of complementary and alternative medicines. He is also interested in novel treatments of obesity in non-HIV infected populations and their effect on regional body composition and metabolism.


Lawrence Cheskin
Lawrence Cheskin

Lawrence Cheskin
Department of International Health
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Dr. Cheskin is the director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and associate professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The greatest challenge in treating obesity is ensuring behavior change remains consistent over time and in a variety of situations. Cheskin and his team have been testing a novel way to address this challenge using individualized feedback via handheld computer, also known as a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). He also is conducting ongoing research to minimize the degree of compensation that occurs following food substitutions by studying different kinds of foods, and different diet approaches. Additionally, he is studying gastric pacing, food substitutions, and appetite-controlling foods.


 Nancy Davidson
Nancy Davidson

Nancy Davidson
Department of Oncology
 
Dr. Davidson, MD, is director of the Breast Cancer research Program. Her research uses preclinical models of cancer to improve our understanding of the biology and therapy of breast cancer to establish findings that can be brought to human testing. About 30 percent of human breast cancers lack expression of the estrogen receptor alpha (ER) protein, rendering them resistant to endocrine therapies.  Silencing of ER expression can be associated with epigenetic changes such as DNA methylation and histone modulation and the mechanisms underlying these processes and the potential to reverse them is under study. She is also investigating the possibility that aberrations in the polyamine metabolic pathway in breast cancer can be exploited for treatment or prevention, as polyamine analogs have been shown to inhibit proliferation and promote cell death in preclinical breast cancer models.  


Adrian Sandra Dobs
Adrian Sandra Dobs

Adrian Sandra Dobs
Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Dr. Dobs is professor of medicine and oncology and is presently an active investigator in the field of male gonadal function.  She is particularly interested in new forms of male hormone replacement therapy and has published extensively in the area of hormonal changes with aging. She is director of the clinical trials unit, overseeing a team of individuals dedicated to facilitating clinical research within an academic medical center environment.

   


Peter Espenshade
Peter Espenshade

Peter Espenshade
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
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Dr. Espenshade is an assistant professor of cell biology and his lab focuses on studying the mechanisms of molecular sensing. One type of sensing is the regulation of cellular cholesterol homeostasis. The membrane-bound transcription factor sterol regulatory element binding protein, SREBP, upregulates enzymes required for cholesterol biosynthesis in response to cellular cholesterol depletion. Using mammalian tissue culture and fission yeast models, they are investigating how cells measure the cholesterol concentration in membranes. Another type of molecular sensing is the cellular response to hypoxia. To understand how cells sense oxygen, the Espenshade lab is investigating the adaptive programs initiated by eukaryotes in response to hypoxia. Recently, they discovered that fission yeast monitor oxygen-dependent sterol synthesis as a measure of environmental oxygen supply.


William Guggino
William Guggino

William Guggino
Department of Physiology
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Dr. Guggino’s research interests include ion channels, gene therapy, polycystic kidney disease, epithelial cell biology, protein trafficking and localization, and cystic fibrosis. Presently, he investigating the structure and function of chloride (Cl)- and water channels; trafficking and molecular organization of transport proteins in epithelial cell membranes; and genetic therapies for the correction of defective ion transport in CF cells and patients. Research is also being conducted on the identification of the specific defect in Cl- channel regulation in patients with Cystic Fibrosis, the most common autosomal recessive disease in North America.


Gerald Hart
Gerald Hart

Gerald Hart
Department of Biological Chemistry
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Dr. Hart is director of biological chemistry. His lab studies the crosstalk between dynamic GlcNAcylation and phosphorylation of nucleocytoplasmic proteins in signaling, transcription and cellular metabolism, and the roles of abnormal GlcNAcylation in diabetes, neurodegenerative disease and cancer (oncogene and tumor suppressor proteins, in particular).
  
They also are focused on developing improved methods (eg. mass spectrometry and site-specific antibodies) for the study of the O-GlcNAc modification, some of which may have diagnostic value.


Mehboob Hussain
Mehboob Hussain

Mehboob Hussain
Departments of Pediatrics and Medicine
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Dr. Hussain’s research interest is in the area of diabetes mellitus and pancreatic beta-cell biology. The laboratory effort is directed towards better understanding of the pancreatic beta cell biology and its relevance for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Their work focuses on the differentiation and regeneration of pancreatic endocrine cells from progenitor/stem cells. In vitro cell culture and in vivo animal models are used to elucidate the molecular mechanisms differentiation of stem cells. These techniques are also being used to identify the extra- and intracellular signals and transcription factors that regulate differentiation pathways of stem cells. A second line of investigation addresses the role of intracellular signals in the function and proliferation of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells.


Lynne C. JOnes
Lynne C. Jones

Lynne C. Jones
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
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Dr. Jones is the Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Osteonecrosis Research and Education and associate professor of orthopaedic surgery.  Her primary research interest is in the study of the pathogenesis and treatment of osteonecrosis.  She has utilized several approaches involving both clinical and basic science research.  Her studies have focused on three of the major risk factors for osteonecrosis: high-dose corticosteroid therapy, alcoholism, and abnormal levels of coagulation factors.  She is also interested in new treatment regimens for osteonecrosis including biologics and cell-based therapies.  Dr. Jones is also a Board member of two non-profit organizations relating to osteonecrosis: The National Osteonecrosis Foundation and ARCO International.


Francis Kuhajda
Department of Pathology
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Human cancers and pre-cancerous lesions express high levels of fatty acid synthesis, and inhibiting the key anabolic enzyme fatty acid synthase (FAS) leads to apoptosis of human cancer cells. 
  
Dr. Kuhadja's laboratory is exploring the basic mechanisms linking cancer cell apoptosis with inhibition of fatty acid synthesis to help develop new inhibitors of FAS for future clinical use. As altering fatty acid metabolism in mammals can also lead to profound weight loss, he is unraveling the pathways linking FAS inhibition to both central appetite mechanisms and peripheral energy metabolism using animal models of obesity such as genetically obese mice. These studies may lead to promising breakthroughs for future obesity and diabetes treatment.


Se-Jin Lee
Se-Jin Lee

Se-Jin Lee
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
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Dr. Lee's primary interest is to understand the role of signaling molecules in regulating embryonic development and adult tissue homeostasis.  His laboratory has focused on the superfamily of secreted proteins that are structurally related to transforming growth factor-ß (TGF-ß) which regulate the development and function of many different tissues.  Using molecular genetic approaches, they have identified a large number of novel mammalian TGF-ß family members that they have designated growth/differentiation factors (GDFs).  They have been using a variety of experimental approaches, including genetic manipulation of mice, to attempt to understand the precise biological functions of these molecules.  They are particularly interested in understanding the roles of these molecules in regulating tissue growth.


Timothy Moran
Department of Psychiatry
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Dr. Moran is the Paul R. McHugh Professor for Motivated Behaviors.  His laboratory focuses on the controls of eating as they relate to the etiology of obesity and eating disorders.  The laboratory uses multiple approaches including cell systems, genetic and dietary models of obesity in rodents, and analyses of feeding behavior in nonhuman primates.  Specific projects involve examination of gut/brain in satiety, the role of hypothalamic neuropeptide systems in energy balance, interactions between energy expenditure and food intake and the identification of epigenetic factors that can bias the organism toward diabetes and obesity.  His laboratory also studies developmental factors that can contribute to alterations in neural maturation.


Peter Pedersen
Department of Biological Chemistry
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Dr. Pedersen's laboratory is interested in cell energetics and the relationship of cell energy to molecular medicine and disease. He studies both mitochondrial and glycolytic processes at the tissue, cell, and molecular level, as well as the relationship of these processes to cancer and heart disease, the two leading causes of death in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of developing new therapies.


Daniel Raben
Daniel Raben

Daniel Raben
Department of Biological Chemistry
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Dr. Raben is interested in the chemistry and biochemistry of lipids and lipid enzymes involved in signaling cascades. His laboratory's major effort is studying the molecular aspects involved in regulating lipid metabolizing signaling enzymes and the physiological roles of this regulation. The control of these enzymes involves the modulation of two key parameters, their sub-cellular distribution and intrinsic enzymatic activity. The importance of this work is underscored by the fact that defects in lipid cascades often contribute to conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, immune dysfunctions, and cancer. 


Sally Radovick
Sally Radovick

Sally Radovick
Department of Pediatrics
 
Sally Radovick, MD, is the Lawson Wilkins Professor of Pediatrics and Division Director of Pediatric Endocrinology at Johns Hopkins. Her research focuses on determining the regulation of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) gene, which has a central role in reproduction by controlling secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which in turn regulate the synthesis of estrogen and androgen. Her group was one of the first to generate GnRH-expressing neuronal cell-lines and map GnRH cell-specific elements in vivo. She also A second studies intracellular signaling pathways within the GnRH neuron. Her lab demonstrated that insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) receptors were present on GnRH neurons obtained from transgenic animals and their activation results in increased transcription of the GnRH gene. This pathway may be an important mediator of GnRH expression in normal puberty as well as in disorders resulting in abnormal pubertal development and reproduction.


Sharma.jpg
Dipali Sharma

Dipali Sharma
Department of Oncology

Dr. Sharma, PhD, is an associate professor of oncology and her lab focuses on investigating the molecular links between obesity and cancer, emphasizing aspects that have potential clinical significance. Her studies on obesity-related hormones, adipocytokines, show that leptin promotes the proliferative response and metastatic potential as well as modulates the expression of various genes involved in cell cycle, apoptosis and metastasis. To get to the bottom of obesity-cancer connection, her lab is exploring the genes, molecules, hormones and cellular processes that could cause and promote cancer in obese people. Using various physiologically relevant mouse models and cell lines, their aim is to find molecular targets that can be disrupted to break the obesity-cancer axis. They are exploring new strategies to disrupt obesity-cancer connection using novel small molecule inhibitors as well as bioactive food components. Their overall goal is to understand the molecular networks by which obesity affects carcinogenesis and discover novel agents to effectively disrupt obesity-cancer axis.    


Michele Shermak
Michele Shermak

Michele Shermak
Department of Surgery
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Michele Shermak, M.D., is the Chief of Plastic Surgery at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and also a member of the Center for Bariatric Surgery. Clinically, she specializes in the latest techniques in aesthetic and breast surgery. Her research focuses on the basic science of soft tissue healing, bone healing, and tissue engineering, and she is also interested in the effects of weight loss on adipocyte physiology and metabolism.
 


Dr. Wolfgang
Michael J. Wollfgang

Michael J. Wolfgang
Department of Biological Chemistry
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Dr. Wolfgang’s lab is interested in the regulation of energy homeostasis by the central nervous system, specifically its interaction with the organs and tissues—muscle, liver, fat—that control energy use and expenditure. This interaction often is disrupted in obese and diabetic patients and leads to an inability to regulate body weight and blood sugar within normal ranges. Obesity and diabetes have become serious problems in Western medical science, and are a growing problem throughout the world.  Understanding the molecular mechanisms underpinning these conditions is critical to formulating new interventions.  To this end we use biochemical and molecular genetic techniques to better understand how the brain controls energy use.


G. W. Wong
G.W. Wong

G. William Wong, Ph.D.
Department of Physiology
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Dr. Wong’s laboratory is interested in understanding how various organs in the body coordinate the complex metabolic networks and circuitry to maintain proper energy balance. Specifically, his lab focuses on characterizing a novel family of endocrine mediators secreted by adipose tissue. Current projects seek to understand how these circulating factors regulate fat mass as well as systemic insulin sensitivity, glucose and lipid metabolism. These secreted factors, all belong to the C1q/TNF protein family, are related in structure and function to the insulin-sensitizing hormone, adiponectin. A variety of in vitro and in vivo (transgenic and knockout mice) approaches is being employed in his lab to dissect the function and mechanisms of action of these molecules.


J. Hunter Young
Division of General Internal Medicine
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Dr. Young, MD, MHS, focuses on the genetic epidemiology and physiology of cardiovascular disease and its associated risk factors, especially hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. His current activities include an observational study of hypertension among African Americans, a genetic epidemiology study of worldwide cardiovascular disease susceptibility patterns, and involvement in several population-based observational studies of cardiovascular and renal disease.


Jin Zhang
Jin Zhang

Jin Zhang
Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences
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Recent years have seen tremendous progress in identifying the molecular components that constitute the signaling pathways that control many cellular processes. Less well developed is our understanding of how these components are precisely regulated over space and time to achieve specific functions. Dr Zhang’s group is interested in understanding the molecular basis and cellular consequences of such spatiotemporal regulation and are combining biochemical and biophysical approaches, including fluorescence microscopy, to investigate these pathways in real-time at the cellular level. In an NIDDK-funded project, they are aiming to elucidate the mechanisms and functional significance of cAMP compartmentalization, particularly focused on b-adrenergic receptor and cAMP signaling in adipocytes.   


Heng Zhu
Heng Zhu

Heng Zhu
Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences
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Dr. Zhu is an assistant professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences and investigator in the High-Throughput Biology center. The Zhu lab focuses on extending protein chip technology to study protein posttranslational modification, including (de)acetylation, (de)ubiquitylation, (de)methylation, and sumoylation. The lab also has made protein chips for herpesvirus for studying protein-protein interactions. Lastly, the  Zhu lab has developed a lectin chip for profiling surface glycans in mammalian cells. So far, they have screened more than 30 different cell lines in humans on the lectin chips and are beginning to learn how glycans can be used to identify different cell types.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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