The Domingos Group specialises in the study of sympathetic neurons and what goes wrong with these neurons in the context of obesity. In 2015, Professor Ana Domingos and her team discovered that these neurons are essential for the biology of the adipose tissue by uncovering the sympathetic neuro-adipose junction, a functional synapse-like connection between white adipocytes and the sympathetic nervous system, which is required for the reduction of fat mass.
The Domingos lab has now discovered the existence of another population of cells that are hypothesised to be controlling the biology of sympathetic neurons. With a new Global Obesity ASPIRE competitive grant from Pfizer, the research team will study the role of perineurial cells and how they cross talk with sympathetic neurons and adipocytes to control fat mass. If researchers can better understand the biology behind this cross talk, the hope is that potential drug targets can be identified in future research.
Pfizer Global Medical Grants (GMG) aims to support independent initiatives from the global healthcare community to improve patient outcomes in areas of unmet medical need. The selection process for the latest public Request for Proposal (RFO) was very competitive, with just 2.5% of applicants receiving a research grant. The GMG panel recognised that uncovering the role of sympathetic-associated perineurial barrier cells in controlling body weight is an important question and is supported by a large amount of strong preliminary data already generated by the Domingos Group. Consequently, the GMG awarded $250K to fund Professor Domingos and her lab for the next three years, one of just give proposals to receive funding.
Professor Ana Domingos said: "Pfizer is funding curiosity-driven research on mechanisms that are related to the homeostasis of body weight. The earlier the research stage that is being funded, the more likely it is that you are going to make meaningful discoveries that can change the approach to obesity related diseases. I believe this grant will lead us to understanding the sympathetic nervous system better, and also to understanding why sympathetic neurons are dying. Why are they dying in the process of obesity? And can we stop that? To answer this question, we need to understand what are the key players and variables in this equation."