Cellular mechanisms of metabolic sensing by human hypothalamic neuron

Year of award: 2018


  • Dr Florian Merkle

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

Obesity is a major public health problem that does not have any broadly effective treatments.

I will study the cell types in the brain that regulate appetite. I have developed a method to generate large numbers of human appetite-regulating brain cells using stem cells. Like their counterparts in the brain, these cells sense and respond to metabolic signals, including nutrients and hormones such as leptin. I will explore how defects in leptin signalling might lead to obesity, how these brain cells sense metabolic signals and integrate them using specialised ‘sensory antennae’. I will also ask which combinations of anti-obesity drugs act on human appetite-regulating brain cells in culture and might therefore be effective at promoting weight loss in mice.

My studies will shed light on the cause of obesity and facilitate the development of effective anti-obesity treatments.