Inter-organ communication via blood circulation

Organs “talk” to each other using hormones, growth factors, and cytokines in blood circulation. These “inter-organ” proteins regulate development, energy storage, and are important disease targets, but may be the tip of the iceberg. Blood plasma contains the equivalent of “dark matter” - thousands of circulating proteins with unknown functions. Many questions remain:

My lab aims to answer these questions systematically using Drosophila, a model organism with human-like organ systems and precise tissue-specific genetic tools. Our goal is to broadly interlink organ systems by studying novel circulating inter-organ factors that are conserved throughout animal species, which has the potential to find therapeutic targets and biomarkers.

Tool development

Studying inter-organ factors systematically requires new tools to tackle the incredible complexity involved - a multitude of organ combinations (e.g. muscle -> fat, fat -> brain, etc.) and unknown numbers of factors in circulation. To address this, my lab develops:

Importantly, these tools are based on genetically-encoded reagents, allowing us to deploy them in free-living transgenic flies, as well as readily port them to other model organisms (e.g. zebrafish, mouse).