Sheila Collins PhD
Diabetes Research Center: Vanderbilt University
Dr. Collins' laboratory is interested in the biochemical mechanisms that regulate body weight and insulin sensitivity. Activation of the adrenaline receptors, specifically the members of the beta-adrenergic receptor (beta-AR) family, provides the major stimulus for the hydrolysis and release of stored lipids. They are also key drivers of a process called 'nonshivering thermogenesis' in brown fat. Brown fat cells are specialized cells rich in mitochondria and largely defined by their ability to express the mitochondrial uncoupling protein UCP1, which allows the dissipation of the proton gradient in the inner mitochondrial membrane to yield heat at the expense of ATP production. In addition to the beta-ARs, the cardiac natriuretic peptides also activate these same mechanisms through a parallel pathway in fat cells. By understanding their signal transduction properties and how they are regulated, Dr. Collins hopes to be able to find a way to increase energy expenditure in fat in the fight against obesity and the devastating diseases that accompany it, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Dr. Collins has made seminal contributions in the field of obesity and diabetes at the molecular and physiological level.