Monell’s newest faculty member brings the power of neuroscience to a pressing question: Why do we overeat?
You could say that Amber Alhadeff, PhD, has a gut feeling about her new appointment to Monell’s faculty. Alhadeff, a behavioral neurobiologist who studies how the nervous system controls food intake, strongly believes that Monell’s interdisciplinary ethos will advance her work to identify treatments for diet-related diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and eating disorders.
“The collaborative research environment at Monell provides a truly unique space for innovation and growth,” Alhadeff says. “I plan to engage this culture as much as possible to explore new research questions related to my own interests and also to contribute to the work of other scientists on Monell’s outstanding faculty.”
Alhadeff’s research focuses on neurons (nerve cells) in the brain that control hunger, seeking to understand the different signals that can activate these cells – or turn them off. Knowing that the stomach and intestines, often referred to as the gut, send information about recently ingested nutrients to the brain, she wants to understand how information from the gut affects the hunger neurons in the brain.
When it opens in January 2020, Alhadeff’s lab will use a combination of modern neuroscience approaches to monitor how nutrient signaling from the gut affects brain activity over time. The ultimate goal is to identify new ways to combat diet-related disease.
“My research program at Monell will shed new light on how gut-brain signaling influences hunger sensations – why we want to eat, including sometimes when we’re already full. It is my hope that we will uncover new targets for the development of treatments for obesity and other diet-related diseases,” Alhadeff says.
Considered a rising star in her field, Alhadeff joins Monell following four years as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. While nominally a junior researcher, she brings with her an impressive list of publications (24 at last count, many in high-impact publications such as Cell, Neuron, and The Journal of Neuroscience) and successfully funded grants from both NIH and foundation sources, including a prestigious Women in Science Fellowship from L’Oréal USA.
“We all are immensely pleased to welcome Amber to Monell as she begins her faculty career. Amber’s pioneering research on how specialized centers in the brain detect information about nutrients from the gut to regulate feeding complements and strengthens Monell’s growing focus on the emerging field of sensory nutrition,” said Monell President and Director Robert Margolskee, MD, PhD.
While awaiting her lab’s opening early next year, Alhadeff will be recruiting postdoctoral fellows and research technicians. “I intend to hire talented and motivated scientists at all levels so we can hit the ground running,” she says. “There is so much expertise at Monell, I look forward to establishing collaborations and conducting research that can benefit public health by reducing diet-related disease.”