The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases

Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases

Mikhail Kolonin, PhD - Associate Professor & Director

Vihang, Narkar, PhD - Assistant Professor

Sheng Zhang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Qingchun Tong, PhD., - Assistant Professor

Nick Justice, PhD - Assistant Professor 

The Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases takes an integrative and collaborative approach to tackling some of the most pressing health challenges of our time: diabetes, obesity, and aging-related neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. These different health conditions involve defects in multiple related cell signaling pathways and processes. The guiding vision for the Center has been to recruit investigators who focus on complementary aspects of energy metabolism, cell signaling, or muscle and neuronal degeneration and who use a variety of methods and technologies. Key questions being addressed by the Center’s faculty include the following: 

  • How do cells regulate their storage and use of fat?
  • Why does obesity increase the risk for certain cancers?
  • How does the brain control the body’s energy balance and influence glucose metabolism?
  • Can medicines be used to mimic exercise and, thereby, produce its beneficial effects for those who cannot exercise or have muscle degeneration?
  • How does the attachment of glucose to certain proteins influence normal organ development and function?
  • How does abnormal processing of cellular proteins cause metabolic and neuronal degeneration?
  • How do mutations in a small set of genes lead to specific brain degenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, and what are the normal cellular functions of these genes?

To address these questions, the Center employs state-of-the-art methods and diverse model organisms, such as the fruit fly and mouse. Strong collaboration among the Center’s laboratories promotes research synergy, thereby increasing productivity and innovation. The Center’s faculty also collaborate with epidemiologists, biochemists, geneticists, and translational scientists to speed the translation of their discoveries for the benefit of patients with metabolic and degenerative diseases.