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Research Expertise and Interest
Obesity greatly increases the chances of developing a host of diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes. The mechanistic connection between the obese state and these diverse disorders is poorly understood but may frequently involve the excessive uptake and storage of fatty acids. The main focus of the Stahl lab is to identify the mechanism that determine the uptake and distribution of fatty acids in the body and to utilize molecular and chemical biology as well as physiology approaches to determine how changes in the flux of lipids can be utilized to treat obesity associated disorders. Specifically, we were the first to identify an intestinal fatty acid transporter, to demonstrate the existence of an insulin-sensitive fatty acid transporter in adipocytes, to identify a cardiac specific FATP and to demonstrate that the inhibition of hepatic fatty acid transporters by genetic and pharmacological means can reverse hepatosteatosis and insulin resistance. To monitor alterations in fatty acid fluxes in living animals we also pioneered novel tools for the imaging and quantification of cellular fatty acid uptake processes in collaboration with the department of chemistry. Another research focus in the lab is brown fat biology. We showed that FATP1 is required for thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue and are currently expanding these studies in conjunction with the bioengineering department by developing novel tools for the creation of artificial brown fat like tissues from stem cells that can be used in an autologous implantation strategy to combat obesity related disorders.