Anorexia in the elderly - a hiring and wiring problem in the hypothalamus

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Biological Sciences

Abstract

The elderly often develop poor appetite (anorexia) and their reduced calorie and nutrient intake worsens the effects of aging in multiple tissues. Hunger and level of energy-expenditure are controlled by a discrete population of neurons in an area of the brain called hypothalamus. Broadly, these neurons occur as two different subtypes and work in a 'tug of war' manner to induce state of hunger versus fullness. In this project, the student will ask whether ageing-related anorexia is due to a progressive decline in the number and/or functioning of specific subset of these neurons. Using a powerful set of transgenic reporter mice, the student will accurately measure and compare these changes in the brain of young, middle-aged and heavily aged mice. To gain insight into molecular changes, the student will also examine changes in hypothalamic genes that are differentially turned on or off, or are reduced or elevated with ageing. In a complementary strand, the student will ask whether there is a reduced supply of new neurons to circuits that control appetite, by a newly-discovered population of hypothalamic neural stem/progenitor cells, called tanycytes. Moreover, the student will test whether genetic knockdown or over-expression of certain genes expressed by tanycytes can enhance or reduce hypothalamic neurogenesis in the aged brain as means of counteracting neuronal loss in this region.

Publications

10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1799931 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2020 Estela Pérez Santamarina
 
Description The preliminary results showed age-related differences in hypothalamic glial cells/ neurons. Firstly, the different glial populations (microglia, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and tanycytes) were studied and age-related differences in the distribution, number and morphology were observed in all of them, associated with an increased inflammation in the medio-basal hypothalamus with the age. Secondly, different neuronal populations involved in appetite control were studied and age-related differences were observed, with a decline in a specific neuronal population. Finally, cell death studies were performed in order to asses age-related apoptosis but our suggested that ageing is not associated to neuronal/ glial death within the hypothalamus.
Exploitation Route - Future peer-review publications
- Conference communications
- Department seminars
Sectors Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description Head group meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The attendance to the head group meeting provided me with information about what other local research groups are working on and made some networking and collaborations possible.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.ucl.ac.uk/child-health/research/developmental-biology-and-cancer-programme/stem-cells-an...
 
Description Participation in a International Keystone meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The attendance to the keystone international conference in Neuronal Control of Appetite, Metabolism and Weight provided me with the most up to date research in my field of work and help me to network with other neuroscientists working in academia or in industry, thus facilitating the cooperation with other local and international research teams with the same research interests and goals. Overall, this was an exciting opportunity to increase my knowledge in the neuronal control of the metabolism and gave me some insights for my future research plans.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.keystonesymposia.org/index.cfm?e=web.Meeting.Program&meetingid=1458
 
Description Supervision undergrad students undertaking the final year project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The supervision of undergrad students undertaking their final year project was an exciting opportunity to learn about team group work, management and teaching. This provided me some extra skills that will be useful for my future career as the effort and dedication that are needed to lead successfully a team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019