Guided by the notion that late onset chronic diseases are the consequence of prolonged overworking of various tissues that have genetic and epigenetic vulnerabilities, I assert that it is the cellular energy metabolism of the different tissues that determines their health and longevity and consequently that of the entire organism. Based on my previous and ongoing work, I hypothesize that a small set of neurons in the hypothalamus, which produce Agouti-related protein (AgRP), act as the master regulator of energy utilization by all tissues, and hence, these hypothalamic neurons determine healthy tissue function and longevity. We will selectively up- or down-regulate the activity of hypothalamic AgRP neurons and test the effect of these perturbations on normal physiology of peripheral tissues and that of the brain. I suggest that these changes in peripheral tissue function by altered AgRP neuronal functioning will have critical impact on higher brain functions as well, including learning and memory and the ability of the brain to withstand stress during neurodegeneration induced either by normal aging or by pathological processes, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. This project is uniquely suited for the NDPA program because it is unconventional and represents an approach in biomedical research that is nonexistent. It is a high risk avenue, but, if successful, would have great benefits in that it could immediately lead to novel treatments for various chronic diseases.
Late onset chronic diseases, such as dementias, Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and tissue malignancies, are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the U.S., creating the greatest emotional and financial burden on the individual and society. As the size of the aging population continues to grow, late onset chronic diseases are predicted to further dominate the attention of biomedicine and society at large. This proposal aims to deliver paradigm shifting discoveries that will achieve a decline in the prevalence of chronic diseases.
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