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This week we profile a recent publication in PLOS Biology from Lianna Wat (pictured left)
in the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Rideout (right) at the UBC Life Sciences Institute.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

In the Rideout lab, we use fruit flies as a model to discover genes that explain how males and females store and metabolize fat differently. In our recent paper, we discovered one gene that plays a large part in how male and female flies store and metabolize fat differently. Normally, female flies have more fat than male flies, like in humans. But in flies missing the brummer gene, we found that the males store just as much fat as females.

What is the significance of the findingsĀ inĀ this publication?

Men and women differ in the risk of developing diseases caused by abnormal fat storage, like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and also in how well the treatments for these diseases work. Our research is focused on discovering genes that cause male and female fruit flies to store different amounts of fat, because this is an important first step towards understanding why men and women differ in the risk of developing diseases associated with abnormal fat storage. Also, finding new genes that affect fat storage is the first step in developing new therapies to treat diseases associated with abnormal fat storage.

What are the next steps for this research?

Our study on the brummer gene and fat storage is just the tip of the iceberg – our paper examined one gene out of hundreds of fat storage genes that show differences between males and females. Ongoing work in the lab is focused on investigating how all these other genes affect fat storage, so that we can build a complete picture of how fat storage differs between males and females.

This work was funded by:

I would like to acknowledge funds from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, Canadian Foundation for Innovation, and UBC.

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