Staff overview – University of Copenhagen

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Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research > Staff

Zach Gerhart-Hines

Zach Gerhart-Hines

Associate Professor

  • Section for Metabolic Receptology

    Blegdamsvej 3B, 18.5, 2200 Copenhagen N

    Phone: +45 60 67 06 82

Member of:

  • Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research

Current research

Obesity and diabetes have reached pandemic levels and new therapeutic strategies are critically needed. These metabolic diseases not only exact physical and psychological tolls on afflicted individuals but also threaten to cripple healthcare infrastructures.
 
Brown adipose tissue (BAT) possesses remarkable energy-dissipating and glucose-consuming capacities and therefore represents a promising target with which to combat these diseases. During my postdoctoral work, I discovered a novel link between the body’s clock (or circadian rhythm) and environmental control of the therapeutically-appealing functions of BAT.
Circadian and environmental signaling to BAT incorporates hormonal and nutrient cues with direct neuronal input. Yet how these responses coordinately shape BAT energy-expending potential through the regulation of cell surface receptors, metabolic enzymes, and transcriptional effectors is still not understood. 
 
Primary Research Questions:
 
  • How are circadian and thermogenic signals “sensed” at the surface of brown adipose cells?
  • How do these signals shape the BAT enzymatic landscape to orchestrate energy-dissipating potential?
We address these questions through gain and loss-of-function studies in primary brown adipocytes and genetic mouse models. The resources and facilities at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research are ideally suited for extensive molecular, cellular, and physiological characterization of circadian BAT metabolism. We employ instrumentation ranging from the Seahorse Bioscience analyzer to indirect calorimetry metabolic cages.
 
What We Hope to Accomplish:
 
Through collaboration, we are extending our circadian and thermogenic studies into humans to evaluate the translational potential. Our results will advance the fundamental understanding of how daily oscillations in bioenergetic networks establish a framework for the anticipation of and adaptation to environmental challenges. Importantly, we expect that these mechanistic insights will reveal pharmacological targets through which we can unlock evolutionary constraints and harness the energy-expending potential of BAT for the prevention and treatment of obesity and diabetes. 
 
Positions Available:
 
Currently, positions are available for postdoctoral fellows. Please email me (zpg@sund.ku.dk) for more information on specific projects.

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