Metabolic Health Research

Lucy Liaw, PhD looks through a microscope at MHIR.

Lucy Liaw, PhD looks through a microscope at MHIR.

$12.9M from NIH Expands Center for Metabolic Health

Major grant news for the research institute in 2023 included the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarding MaineHealth a five-year, $12.9 million renewal of its Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Metabolic Networks grant. The funding will advance research infrastructure for the study of metabolic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis and lipid and energy imbalances.

This grant renewal will allow MaineHealth Institute for Research (MHIR) to build upon the success of this COBRE, which was established through a five-year, $11 million NIH grant in 2017. In the first five years of the COBRE, MHIR researchers studied how metabolically active tissues, including fat, bone and the brain, use energy and control overall metabolism in the body, and how this is altered during disease.

Advancing our Understanding of Metabolic Diseases

In the next five years, researchers will study:

  • The impact different kinds of fat tissue may have on diabetes
  • How bariatric surgery to treat metabolic disease affects bone health
  • The effects of night shift work on gestational diabetes during pregnancy and beyond
  • Stigma in diabetes care

As these researchers obtain independent grants, new opportunities will become available to support additional investigators who study metabolic diseases that are prevalent in Maine and across the country.

“Our goal is to make new discoveries that can serve the health and medical needs of our communities while continuing to recruit and support the research careers of junior investigators,” said Lucy Liaw, PhD, faculty scientist at MHIR and the principal investigator for this grant. “We do that by providing a strong advisory and mentorship network for our researchers and high-quality shared scientific resources. This foundation launches the career of faculty researchers, who create opportunities for our workforce and train the next generation of researchers.”

Four investigators who began their careers with funding through the COBRE now lead their own grant-funded research: Aaron Brown PhD, Katie Motyl PhD, Michaela Reagan PhD – all at MHIR – and Christine Lary, PhD, a research associate professor at the Roux Institute at Northeastern University and adjunct faculty scientist at MHIR.

The grant renewal will continue to develop the careers of young scientists. The program also brings state-of-the-art molecular, cellular, and physiological technologies to research communities at MaineHealth and across the state.