The worldwide prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other life style-related diseases has massively increased during the last 40 years. These are complex multifactorial diseases and research in genetic, physiological and metabolic aspects of these disorders is necessary for the development of improved prevention and treatment of the comorbidities.
In the Functional Genomics & Metabolism Research Unit we are interested in understanding how specific cell types regulate the expression of their genes and how this affects the development and functions of the cells and tissues. Thus, our research aims at better understanding how genes regulate human physiology and diseases like obesity, fatty liver diseases, cancer, and diabetes.
In our research unit, we use advanced next-generation DNA sequencing to study gene regulation across whole organs and individual single cells using animal models and human biopsies. We integrate this with cell culture experiments, where conditions can be tightly controlled. We also apply advanced microscopy techniques and gene-editing to understand how organisms, tissues and cells respond to a variety of signals.
Our research aims to:
- Understand the molecular networks that regulate gene expression and function of stem cells, fat cells and the insulin-producing cells in pancreas, and how these networks influence the development of obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes (Mandrup group)
- Understand how metabolism and the surrounding environment (e.g. day/night cycles and feeding) affect genome organization and gene expression in the liver (Grøntved group)
- Understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie the development of hepatic inflammation and fibrosis as well as their resolution (Ravnskjaer group)
- Investigate non-protein coding RNAs, a new class of gene-regulatory molecules with elusive functions in metabolism. We focus on understanding noncoding RNAs in liver and adipose tissue during development of obesity and type 2 diabetes (Kornfeld group)
- Understand how the fundamental cell cycle and division process influences embryonic and adult organism development, using different single-cell approaches (Natarajan group)
- Understand the regulation of genes that control progression of breast cancer and how this regulation is affected by signals from other cells types in the body e.g. in the case of obesity (Siersbæk group)
- Develop new computer models to understand cell fate during development of obesity or diseases like type 2 diabetes (Madsen group)
Our research unit houses two research centers: Center for Functional Genomics and Tissue Plasticity (ATLAS), and Center for Adipocyte Signaling (ADIPOSIGN). Both centers are headed by Prof. Susanne Mandrup and include several partners from our research unit.
In ATLAS we use advanced transgenic animal models and human biopsies to investigate how different cell types in fat tissue and liver are affected by obesity and bariatric surgery-induced weight loss. We investigate how changes in the specific cell types affect other cell types as well as tissue function. This provides a unique insight into the obesity-induced changes in fat tissue and liver and creates a basis for better diagnosis and treatment of e.g. fatty liver.
In ADIPOSIGN we study how the molecular signals that control the function of fat cells (adipocytes) is changed when obesity develops. We investigate how these signals differ depending on fat depots, gender, and genetic makeup. Our research uncovers how these individual variations contribute to the development and consequences of obesity in the population.