New ways to improve metabolism: understanding mitochondria and lipid droplet interactions in health and disease

Research Opportunity
PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Number of Honour Places Available
Number of Master Places Available
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Prof Matthew Watt Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Ayenachew Bezawork-Geleta

Summary Our innovative research program seeks to identify how defects of lipid metabolism and inter-tissue communication cause obesity-related disorders, including type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We use this information to discover novel targets that can be transitioned to clinical therapeutics. Our research themes are:1. Understanding how insulin resistance develops in obesity.2. Understanding how proteins that are secreted by NAFLD / non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) liver affect metabolism and contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes.3. Regulation of lipid metabolism: identifying novel proteins that control lipid metabolism and how they are altered in metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes, cancer).

Project Details

Although many biology text books indicate that organelles, such as mitochondria and lipid droplets, are static within cells, recent discoveries have transformed this view and show dynamic interactions between organelles in the same 'neighbourhood'. Mitochondria are critical for generating energy, lipid droplets provide the fuel for mitochondrial energy production and these organelles come into close contact, particularly during metabolically demanding situations.   However, we do not know how and why mitochondria are in physical contact with lipid droplets. We aim to test the hypothesis that the inter-organellar interaction of mitochondria and lipid droplets is essential for normal energy metabolism and that this process is dysregulated in metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. 
The student in this project will identify novel proteins that are essential for mitochondria-lipid droplet interactions and determine their metabolic consequences. This will be achieved with proteomic profiling (with space and time resolution), by generating knock-out cell lines using state-of-art genetic editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, imaging of cells using super-resolution microscopy and performing detailed assessment of metabolism. The results of these studies will provide new information regarding the regulation of cell metabolism, information that could be harnessed to develop new therapies for metabolic diseases.

Research Opportunities

PhD students, Honours students, Master of Biomedical Science
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

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