One of our laboratory's major goals is to understand how the brain, notably the hypothalamus, regulates appetite and body weight. Defects in the brain pathways that regulate these processes may be responsible for wasting conditions such as anorexia nervosa and cancer cachexia as well as the metabolic resistance to weight loss that often occurs when people try to shed excess weight (the ‘famine reaction’).
Our main focus is on neuropeptide Y (NPY) and its Y-receptors (Y1, Y2, Y4, Y5 and Y6), since many of the molecules that regulate appetite and body weight do so via interaction with the hypothalamic NPY-ergic system. Over the years we have developed sophisticated conditional and transgenic mouse models that allow us to dissect the actions of signalling molecules such as dynorphins and neuropeptide Y on various cell types. Clinical collaborations allow us to collect patient data to test theories relating to modifying appetite and weight.
An intriguing finding in our research is that the very molecules that regulate body weight also regulate aggression, fertility as well as growth and development of lean body tissues such as muscle and bone. Therefore a second emphasis of our research is to understand how molecules in the hypothalamus influence moods and behaviour, fertility, growth, and immune system function. Our research findings have implications for the development of improved weight loss strategies, as well as novel treatments for infertility, poor lactation, dwarfism, osteoporosis, anorexia nervosa and cancer cachexia.
In the News
Why artificial sweeteners can increase appetite - Jul 13, 2016
Taking a ‘diet holiday’ could improve weight loss - Jan 20, 2016
NHMRC funding success for Garvan researchers - Nov 09, 2015
Jackie Lau and Louise Cottle win 2014 Stuart Furler Travel Awards - Nov 06, 2014
How fat might be controlled through the body clock - Jan 08, 2014
Garvan receives $15.5 million in NHMRC funding round - Oct 25, 2013
Amy Nguyen wins People's Choice Award in speaking event - Aug 07, 2013
Double-barreled attack on obesity in no way a no-brainer - Jul 10, 2013
The brain circuit that makes it hard for obese people to lose weight - Feb 06, 2013
Garvan performs well in NHMRC grants round - Oct 24, 2012
A powerful gut hormone that affects insulin and blood sugar levels - Jun 16, 2010
New weight loss approach targets the body and not the brain - Nov 25, 2009
Professor Herbert Herzog wins prestigious award - Jan 15, 2009
Low levels of PYY hormone a very early indicator of Type 2 diabetes - Mar 11, 2008
Natural gut hormones may provide a treatment for obesity - Jan 09, 2008
The molecule that can switch appetite off and on - Nov 05, 2007
How we can stop stress from making us obese - Jul 10, 2007