Neuropeptides are small molecules produced in very specific areas of the brain where they control appetite and the inflammatory response. However, little is known of the processes that ensure they are produced in the correct places, at the correct times and in response to the correct stimuli. This is critical, as changes in the synthesis pattern of neuropeptides play a role in the exacerbation of diseases such as chronic inflammatory pain and obesity.
My team is at the leading edge of identifying and characterising the human genomic regions that direct the synthesis of a number of important neuropeptides in cells of the brain that control appetite and the inflammatory response. We have shown that DNA mutations within these regions, known to be associated with disease, significantly alter their ability to control neuropeptides. Using cutting-edge genome editing technology we will edit out these regulatory regions in mice and examine how the production of neuropeptides is affected in brain cells.
This research will reproduce disease-associated human mutations in mice and allow us to test their effects on physiology and behaviour. Furthermore, it will aid the development of genome editing technology in Aberdeen, greatly benefitting the University’s wider academic community.