Profile of the Department

An imbalanced energy homeostasis can lead to metabolic dysfunctions such as obesity and diabetes that can decrease life expectancy. We are trying to better understand the regulation of energy balance by investigating the physiological mechanisms that regulate energy flow from transformation of food energy intake, distribution to the various organs down to cellular energy expenditure. We use mainly animal models to study the interactions and cross talk of important organs such as intestine, liver, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle. Our focus is on metabolic mediators affecting organ and tissue interactions and energy homeostasis. This includes nutrients such as amino acids, fibers and their metabolites (for example short chain fatty acids produced by bacterial fermentation in the gut) as well as cytokines with para-, auto- and endocrine actions. Regarding cytokines, we are currently focusing on the metabolic role of FGF21 (fibroblast growth factor 21) und GDF15 (growth differentiation factor 15). These are cytokines with endocrine action that can be induced by various types of cellular stress in different cell types and tissue, for example by mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle. They are secreted into the circulation where they were found to be increased with aging making them candidates for biomarkers of aging.