Dr. Daniela Drummond-Barbosa, a professor in the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology and environmental health and engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, received a $844,000 four-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Science to study the direct and indirect roles of nuclear receptors in Drosophila (fruit fly) oogenesis (ovary differentiation).
This grant will allow Dr. Drummond-Barbosa’s research team to continue their studies into how reproduction is linked to physiological status using the powerful genetic tools available in the fruit-fly model organism. Nuclear receptors are special molecules that function throughout the body to sense a variety of factors in our circulation to control many physiological processes, including reproduction. This new phase of her group’s research will focus on investigating how nuclear receptors acting in a variety of tissues, including fat cells, liver-like cells and brain, coordinate their actions to control the function of the ovary according to physiological status. The work will provide new insight into the complex regulation of oogenesis under normal conditions and into how disrupting this regulation could potentially lead to reproductive disorders.
Dr. Drummond-Barbosa pioneered using Drosophila to study the regulation of oogenesis and adult stem cells by diet. She showed that stem cells and their progeny proliferate and grow faster and survive better on rich relative to poor diets. Her laboratory subsequently played a major role in delineating how insulin, steroid hormones, nutrient sensors and other diet-dependent factors mediate this response. More recently, Dr. Drummond-Barbosa’s research program has been addressing the link between adipocyte physiology and stem cell biology and reproduction. This question is particularly relevant to the current obesity epidemic and to the poorly understood connections between obesity and cancers and between obesity and infertility.