The Division of Hypothalamic Research was established in 2006 to bring together scientists interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying hypothalamic function, which regulates body temperature, certain metabolic processes, and other autonomic nervous system activities.
The hypothalamus is one of the most evolutionarily conserved regions of the mammalian brain. It allows mammals to maintain homeostasis; destruction of the hypothalamus is not compatible with life. For example, it is clear that the hypothalamus plays a critical role in regulating energy homeostasis. Dysfunction of this central regulation results in obesity and Type 2 diabetes, the prevalence of which both continue to rise at alarming rates.
To understand the causes and to develop treatments for obesity and Type 2 diabetes, it is necessary to unravel the central pathways regulating energy homeostasis. Despite tremendous advances in the understanding of molecular mechanisms regulating these parameters, the physiological significance of each of the respective candidate pathways and the key neurons mediating the effects are yet to be determined.
In order to determine this, it must be established which molecules (neuropeptides, neurotransmitters, receptors, and intracellular signaling pathways) and which central pathways are required to regulate food intake, glucose homeostasis, lipid metabolism, and energy expenditure. As such, one of the major goals of the research programs at the Hypothalamic Research Center is to understand the molecular and neuroanatomic basis for coordinated control of body weight and glucose homeostasis.
Together with the Central Regulation of Hepatic Metabolism (CROHM), the Hypothalamic Research Unit hopes to make discoveries that will help combat the growing problems of obesity and diabetes. Hypothalamic Research is in the Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, but also includes investigators from several other clinical and basic science areas throughout the university.