Affiliate Investigators

Affiliate Investigators from diverse disciplines and over 20 UW Departments utilize NORC services in the conduct of ground-breaking science in areas ranging from methods development and molecular biology to public policy and communication-based interventions.

Michael Ailion, PhD
Michael Ailion, PhD

Dr. Ailion’s laboratory seeks to identify proteins important for the biogenesis of insulin secretory granules and determining their cellular mechanism of action. Additionally, they are testing whether mutations in these proteins may contribute to genetic susceptibility to obesity and diabetes.

William Banks, MD
William Banks, MD

The major focus of the Bank’s laboratory is the study of how the brain and body communicate with one another through the transfer of informational molecules across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The lab is active in several areas, including how leptin, insulin and other feeding hormones cross the BBB, giving insight into obesity and body weight control.

Alessandro Bitto, PhD
Alessandro Bitto, PhD

Dr. Bitto examines the biochemical and metabolic effects that occur with aging and how to prevent or delay them. Using mouse models of mitochondrial disease and diet-induced obesity, his current work examines the relationship between longevity, obesity and diabetes.

Ernie J. Blevins, PhD
Ernie J. Blevins, PhD

The Blevins laboratory examines the effectiveness of oxytocin to elicit weight loss in a variety of diet-induced obese animal models with the goal to better understand what mechanisms underlie these effects.

Karin Bornfeldt, PhD
Karin Bornfeldt, PhD

Research in Dr. Bornfeldt’s laboratory focuses on cardiovascular complications of diabetes and obesity. Specifically, she studies the roles of lipoproteins, fatty acids, and altered metabolism in circulating and vascular cells in cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes and obesity. She uses both animal models and human samples to identify mechanisms leading to cardiovascular complications of diabetes and obesity.

Michael Bruchas, PhD
Michael Bruchas, PhD

The Bruchas lab utilizes cutting-edge innovation in neuroscience to better understand the mechanisms whereby brain neurocircuits influence reward and behavior. Current ongoing studies including research examining the interactions between hunger, stress and anxiety and how this may lead to eating disorders and obesity.

Carlos Campos, PhD
Carlos Campos, PhD

Dr. Campos’ research program focuses on understanding how neural circuits that control feeding behavior fit within the greater neural network regulating energy homeostasis and behavior.

Vincenzo Cirulli, MD, PhD
Vincenzo Cirulli, MD, PhD

The overarching goal of the Cirulli lab is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that foster the development and function of pancreatic islets of Langerhans. Inasmuch as all of these research interests are ultimately aimed at assessing the metabolic performance of pancreatic islet cell populations in animal models, my lab will greatly benefit from the services provided by our UW NORC. Current projects focus on the effects of nutrients, the role of integrin receptors and cell adhesion molecules on islet development and function.

Paul Crane, MD, MPH
Paul Crane, MD, MPH

I serve as multiple PI of the ACT study (Adult Changes in Thought), a prospective cohort study of older adults that identifies incident cases of dementia and Alzheimer's disease and follows consenting participants to autopsy. We obtain heights and weights and study visits, and also have other anthropometric measures. We have published a variety of papers on BMI and other outcomes over the years and have expanding interest in the role of diet, obesity, and related glucose dysregulation in cognitive impairment and dementia development in older adults.

Julia Cui, PhD
Julia Cui, PhD

Dr. Cui is trained as a toxicologist, specializing in using toxicogenomic and toxicoepigenomic approaches to determine the effects of environmental chemical exposure and reprogramming the gut microbiome on the transcriptional and epigenetic regulation of genes involved in drug metabolism and obesity during development. This research uses mouse models, in vitro cell culture, human specimens, and multi-omics approaches.

Ian de Boer, MD, MS
Ian de Boer, MD, MS

Patients with CKD are at high risk of adverse health outcomes, including progression to end stage renal disease, cardiovascular disease events, and death. Impaired vitamin D metabolism is a promising therapeutic target to prevent these complications.

Laura den Hartigh, PhD
Laura den Hartigh, PhD

The den Hartigh lab examines the impact of fatty acids and inflammatory mediators on adipocyte biology during the development of obesity and subsequent weight loss. More recent work examines mechanisms mediating t10,c12-CLA-mediated weight loss and the role of gut microbiota.

Mauricio Dorfman, PhD
Mauricio Dorfman, PhD

Dr. Dorfman’s research focuses on understanding the central mechanisms that regulate energy homeostasis as well as implications of obesity for cardiovascular disease development. In more detail, we investigate the role of glia cells and their interaction with neurons in the obesity pathogenesis, with special emphasis on sexual dimorphisms and the role of sex steroids.

Nicole Ehrhardt, MD
Nicole Ehrhardt, MD

Dr. Ehrhardt’s research hypothesizes that use RT-CGM in those with gestational diabetes will improve/ reduce glycemic variability in pregnancy and potentially improve fetal and maternal outcomes. We predict that this is will secondary to lifestyle and nutritional changes that will be reinforced by seeing real time feedback of glucose levels in response to food choices and exercise and hopefully minimize unneeded weight gain in pregnancy.

Amanda Fretts, PhD
Amanda Fretts, PhD

My research focuses on diet, physical activity, obesity, dietary biomarkers (e.g., fatty acids), diabetes, American Indian health, and health disparities, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease risk.

Jose Garcia, MD, PhD
Jose Garcia, MD, PhD

My current clinical research focuses on the role of ghrelin, androgens and other anabolic pathways in different wasting conditions, including aging, anorexia and cachexia. I have previously interacted with the NORC to design and implement an MRI method to study brain regulation of appetite in response to ghrelin agonism in cancer. My basic laboratory focuses on understanding molecular pathways involved in the development of muscle wasting in anorexia and cachexia.

Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, MPH
Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, MPH

I run a research group that develops and tests nutrition and physical activity interventions for cancer survivors, with a focus on underserved and vulnerable communities. We also conduct observational epidemiological studies on obesity and cancer.

William Hagopian, MD, PhD
William Hagopian, MD, PhD

I am a major NIH-funded TEDDY clinical center, and in addition to studying Type 1 diabetes, TEDDY studies celiac disease. For both diseases, TEDDY seeks to identify environmental triggers of disease, and collected extensive dietary data. We have identified relationships with islet autoimmunity of Vitamin D, fatty acids, ascorbic acid, and dietary probiotics. We have also found relationships with gluten ingestion and celiac autoimmunity, published this week (aug 16) in JAMA.

Angela Hanson, MD
Angela Hanson, MD

My goal is to continue research in the area of diet and cognition. As a logical extension of my research fellowship and my clinical experience in a memory disorders clinic, I have a deep interest in how dietary factors modulate cognition and Alzheimer’s biomarkers, and exploring the connection between peripheral and brain lipid metabolism in individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Renee Heffron, PhD, MPH
Renee Heffron, PhD, MPH

Ongoing research investigates the hypothesis that concurrent use of TDF-based HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the injectable contraceptive DMPA by HIV-uninfected women will enhance each other’s effects on bone metabolism.

Margaret Heitkemper, PhD, RN
Margaret Heitkemper, PhD, RN

Studies of both fecal and serum metabolites in persons with IBS and healthy control women.

Andrew Hoofnagle, MD, PhD
Andrew Hoofnagle, MD, PhD

I am active in the NORC as the Director of the Analytic Core. In this capacity, and in my own research projects and collaborations, I focus on translational analytic chemistry in nutrition and metabolism.

Rebecca Hull, PhD
Rebecca Hull, PhD

Markers of islet endothelial dysfunction are increased in obese, diabetic db/db mice and high fat fed C57BL/6J mice. For both of these models, obesity and insulin resistance are an integral part of the phenotype, and our data suggest that inflammatory markers in particular are increased in response to diet-induced obesity. Our ongoing studies will interrogate specific molecules of interest, namely laminin and hyaluronan, which are synthesized by the islet endothelial cell and deposited in the islet extracellular matrix. We believe that these molecules are critical for mediating the effects of islet endothelial dysfunction to decrease islet β cell function and survival in the setting of obesity and/or diabetes.

James Hurley, PhD
James Hurley, PhD

Dr. Hurley’s project investigates the hypothesis that succinate acts as a mitochondrial uncoupler and as a fuel and studies will determine whether activation of this pathway both prevents and reverses diet-induced obesity by increasing energy expenditure.

Brian Iritani, DVM, PhD
Brian Iritani, DVM, PhD

A major focus of the Iritani laboratory is to understand the role of folliculin interacting protein-1 (Fnip1), an intracellular protein known to interact with folliculin and the master metabolic sensor, AMP kinase. Studies examine the effect of nutrients and diets in mice deficient in Fnip1 on energy balance, immune function and skeletal muscle wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy.

Nina Isoherranen, PhD
Nina Isoherranen, PhD

I study the impact of obesity in vitamin A metabolism and how altered micronutrient absorption, storage and metabolism may contribute to progressive obesity.

Jessica Jones-Smith, PhD, MPH, BS
Jessica Jones-Smith, PhD, MPH, BS

Dr. Jones-Smith’s work bridges nutrition, epidemiology, population science, public health and econometrics in order to investigate structural approaches for improving health and decreasing health disparities

Matthew Kaeberlein, PhD
Matthew Kaeberlein, PhD

Dr. Kaeberlein studies the basic biology of aging using biochemical, genetic, and molecular approaches. One ongoing project is to explore the relationship between longevity, obesity and diabetes using mouse models of mitochondrial disease and diet-induced obesity.

Steven Kahn, MB, ChB
Steven Kahn, MB, ChB

My long-standing interest has been in the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes and related disorders. In the context of obesity and nutrition, we have been examining the importance of these in the development and treatment of type 2 diabetes in both youth and adults.

Jenny Kanter, PhD
Jenny Kanter, PhD

My research seeks to further our mechanistic knowledge of diabetic atherosclerosis. Identifying the mechanisms will aid in developing new and targeted therapies for diabetic vascular disease. My current project aims to determine if diet-induced obesity and diabetes act through additive mechanisms to worsen atherosclerosis.

Bryan Kestenbaum, MD
Bryan Kestenbaum, MD

My research interests include characterizing variability in mineral metabolism pathways among the general population and to investigate whether differences in these pathways influence general cardiovascular risk. My research evaluates dietary, genetic, and metabolic determinants of mineral metabolism in large cohort studies and evaluates whether these mineral metabolism pathways relate to subclinical atherosclerosis, fractures, hypertension, and clinical cardiovascular events.

Francis Kim, MD
Francis Kim, MD

Dr. Kim’s research focus is on the role of obesity in the development of liver and vascular disease. He uses in vitro approaches and mouse models of obesity and diabetes in studies examining endothelial nitric oxide signaling and the cellular mechanisms by which excess dietary fats or glucose reduce nitric oxide production in liver.

Johanna Lampe, PhD, RD
Johanna Lampe, PhD, RD

Previous analyses suggest an anti-inflammatory effect of a low-glycemic load diet pattern; however, the metabolic effects of such diets may also affect other pathways relevant to chronic disease risk. Our studies will further our understanding of the impact of low- and high-glycemic load on the proteome and metabolome in healthy men and women in the context of controlled diets.

Dianne Lattemann, PhD
Dianne Lattemann, PhD

The Latteman laboratory examines the modulation and regulation of CNS function by metabolic hormones and metabolic status. A major focus is the effect of food reward on the development of obesity. The current studies focus on the effect of HFD to increase motivation for sucrose using a classic operant self-administration paradigm in a rodent model and whether this is can serve as an early contributor to obesity pathogenesis.

Rozenn Lemaitre, PhD, MPH
Rozenn Lemaitre, PhD, MPH

I do research on biomarkers of diet and metabolism and their association with incident diabetes and cardiovascular disease in prospective studies. Biomarkers of interest include circulating fatty acids, sphingolipids, TMAO and related metabolites. I am also interested in diet-gene interactions, mostly done in the context of the CHARGE Consortium Nutrition Working Group due to the need for large sample size.

Christy McKinney, PhD
Christy McKinney, PhD

Broadly, my work focuses on dimensions of nutritional and environmental factors that impact oral health in children. My current work examines the impact of the sugar sweetened beverage tax in Seattle on health outcomes including dental caries and overweight/obesity.

Jason Mendoza, MD, MPH
Jason Mendoza, MD, MPH

I focus on behavioral interventions to eliminate inequities in nutrition and physical activity (PA) among racial/ethnic minority and low income children as well as children with chronic diseases.

Stephen Mooney, PhD
Stephen Mooney, PhD

I explore social and built environment determinants of obesity and effectiveness of weight management interventions.

Gregory Morton, PhD
Gregory Morton, PhD

Dr. Morton’s research focuses on the role of the brain in the control of energy balance and glucose metabolism and how defects in this control system contribute to the development of obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes. Current projects examine the relationship between thermoregulation, energy homeostasis and glucose homeostasis.

Charles Muller, PhD
Charles Muller, PhD

Obesity is related to infertility in men and women. At the Male Fertility Lab, we are recruiting obese men and controls to evaluate laboratory diagnostic tests as indicators of the effects and severity of obesity on sperm production and function, and on oxidative stress in semen.

Marian Neuhouser, PhD, RD
Marian Neuhouser, PhD, RD

I study diet, obesity and cancer prevention – through both observational studies and randomized trials.

Vanessa Oddo, PhD, MPH
Vanessa Oddo, PhD, MPH

I study social determinants of obesity with a current project focusing on employment and working conditions in relation to obesity and cardiometabolic risk.

Grant O'Keefe, MD, MPH
Grant O'Keefe, MD, MPH

I study enteral nutritional supplementation and the metabolic response to trauma and critical illness.

Stephanie Page, MD, PhD
Stephanie Page, MD, PhD

I do some research associated with the impact of sex steroids on co-morbidities of obesity: dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and inflammation.

Jisun Paik, PhD, RD
Jisun Paik, PhD, RD

Dr. Paik’s research focuses on examining ALDH1A1, the major enzyme involved in generating retinoic acid in adipose tissue, as a target for the treatment of obesity.

Richard Palmiter, PhD
Richard Palmiter, PhD

Dr. Palmiter utilizes mouse genetic models and viral gene transfer to dissect neurocircuits involved in feeding. His recent work using state-of-the-art neuroscience techniques has examined the role of AgRP neurons in stimulating feeding and the role of CGRP neurons in the parabrachial nucleus in mediating anorexia.

Peter Rabinovitch, MD, PhD
Peter Rabinovitch, MD, PhD

Dan Raftery, PhD
Dan Raftery, PhD

My research aims to develop improved NMR and MS based platforms for advanced metabolomics studies that are applicable to a range of studies from early disease detection and therapy monitoring to basic studies of systems biology.

Christian Roth, MD
Christian Roth, MD

My active human studies use randomized controlled trial designs to test whether GLP-1 agonists have the potential to improve satiety and weight status in children with obesity. In my lab, we currently also test different agents as potential anti-obesity drugs in different rodent obesity models.

Katya Rubinow, MD
Katya Rubinow, MD

Dr. Rubinow’s work is primarily dedicated to investigating the cardiometabolic roles of nuclear receptor ligands (retinoic acid, sex steroids), and is particularly interested in the cardiometabolic role of sex steroids. Current projects seek to determine how vitamin A metabolism may become dysregulated in obesity, contributing to progressive obesity and its co-morbidities in humans, and the contribution of hypothalamic gliosis to the increased obesity and cardiometabolic risk that results from androgen deprivation therapy in men.

Brian Saelens, PhD
Brian Saelens, PhD

Examining efficacy of family-based treatment for pediatric weight management. Investigating environmental and policy influences on obesity, physical activity, and nutrition.

Jarrad Scarlett, MD, PhD
Jarrad Scarlett, MD, PhD

Dr. Scarlett’s work examines the role of the brain in the control of energy- and glucose-homeostasis. His current work proposes to elucidate the mechanism(s) whereby FGF1 action in the brain can promote sustained glucose lowering in murine models of obesity and diabetes.

Ellen Schur, MD, MS
Ellen Schur, MD, MS

The focus of my research is on obesity and brain regulation of appetite in humans. My current research studies investigate the role of inflammation and gliosis of the mediobasal region of the hypothalamus in obesity pathogenesis, the development of co-morbid disease, and obesity treatment response.

Michael Schwartz, MD
Michael Schwartz, MD

The Schwartz lab investigates the hypothesis that the brain plays an essential role to promote homeostasis of both energy balance and glucose metabolism in response to afferent input from adiposity- and nutrient-related signals, and that defects in these systems contribute to the pathogenesis of obesity and diabetes. Among current ongoing projects is investigation into the mechanisms whereby members of the fibroblast growth factor family (FGF1, FGF19 and FGF21) act on distinct brain cell types to mediate their effects on food intake, body weight and glucose metabolism. Other studies investigate mechanisms underlying brain sensing of blood glucose levels.

Garret Stuber, PhD
Garret Stuber, PhD

The major goal of the Stuber lab is to delineate the neural circuits involved in the manifestation of neuropsychiatric disorders including addiction, maladaptive eating behaviors, and anxiety. His current research examines how diet disrupts the function of an endogenous feeding suppression system to promote overeating and obesity.

Chongren Tang, PhD
Chongren Tang, PhD

Macrophage inflammation is associated with obesity and insulin resistance, and dysfunctional control of this process by ABCA1 and ABCG1 may contribute.

Joshua Thaler, MD, PhD
Joshua Thaler, MD, PhD

Dr. Thaler’s focus is on CNS control of energy balance and glucose homeostasis with a focus on glial mechanisms contributing to obesity and diabetes pathogenesis. In particular, his research aims to determine whether glial cells provide a repair response to diet-induced damage to critical hypothalamic neurons and whether interventions targeted at glia may therefore influence the course of obesity. A second study examines the role of inflammatory signaling in hypothalamic neurons and microglia in obesity-associated insulin resistance and diabetes.

Rong Tian, MD, PhD
Rong Tian, MD, PhD

My research focuses on the role of nutrient processing and mitochondrial metabolism in cardiac and other disease processes. My current human study examines the use of a nutritional supplement on heart failure.

Jenny Tong, MD, MPH
Jenny Tong, MD, MPH

Dr. Tong’s clinical and basic science research related to obesity and glucose intolerance.

Kristina Utzschneider, MD
Kristina Utzschneider, MD

Understanding whether increased glycemic variability and oxidative stress are important in beta-cell dysfunction is critical for the development of effective strategies aimed at the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. In addition, understanding the contribution of dietary factors to beta-cell dysfunction in subjects with pre-diabetes can have a significant public health impact, including changes to dietary counseling and promotion of healthier eating patterns.

Tomas Vaisar, PhD
Tomas Vaisar, PhD

Coronary heart disease accounts for mortality in 70% of patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D). Moreover, type 2 diabetes patients face a 3-fold increased risk for atherosclerosis as well as mortality compared to subjects without diabetes. By integrating mechanistic animal and cellular studies with human observation, our proposed research seeks to define clinically relevant pathways by which obesity and T2D promotes atherogenesis by inducing macrophages dysfunction. Understanding the mechanistic basis of this dysfunction is required to maximize therapeutic opportunities for intervention.

Russell Van Gelder, MD, PhD
Russell Van Gelder, MD, PhD

Our data indicates that adipocyte light sensitivity contributes to energy homeostasis. Studies involving the NORC will seek to delineate underlying mechanisms.

Luke Wander, MD
Luke Wander, MD

I conduct long-term epidemiological studies to learn about obesity-related anthropometric risk factors for diabetes in mothers and their offspring.

Joanne Wang, PhD
Joanne Wang, PhD

Dr. Wang’s long-standing research interests have focused on understanding the biology, physiology and pharmacology of membrane transporters that transport neurotransmitters, nutrients, drugs and toxins across biological membranes. The current study is aimed at investigating the physiological, pharmacological and pathological functions and significance of the plasma membrane monoamine transporter (PMAT) and the functional related transporter SERT. Specifically, the goal is to characterize the role of SERT and PMAT in the regulation of food intake, body weight and glucose metabolism.

Sakeneh Zraika, PhD
Sakeneh Zraika, PhD

Understanding the molecular mechanisms that govern regulation of whole-body glucose homeostasis in metabolically altered states like obesity is critical to developing therapies for affected individuals. Currently, neprilysin inhibitors are FDA approved for use in conditions like heart failure and hypertension. However, neprilysin inhibition may also prove effective for lowering glucose levels by increasing plasma levels of GLP-1 as well as by modifying levels of bile acids. By utilizing a rodent model of diet-induced obesity and neprilysin deficiency, our studies should be informative in this regard.