Alex Gould group

Regulation of growth and metabolism

All organisms regulate their growth according to internal genetic programmes and the availability of nutrients from the environment. As human and other animal embryos develop, they increase in size dramatically. We wish to identify the nutritional factors and genetic networks that promote growth during development and, equally importantly, those that shut it down in adulthood. This research also aims to shed light on the complex interactions between nutrition and the genes influencing growth, obesity and diabetes.

Our current work aims to understand how embryonic and fetal growth are altered by sub-optimal nutrition. Much of our research in this area uses the fruit fly Drosophila, a model organism that shares many genes with mammals. We recently found that restricting nutrient intake during Drosophila development reduces growth in certain organs, such as the brain, to a much lesser extent than in others. We have now identified several conserved genes regulating this selective brain sparing process and are currently examining whether they play a similar role in mammals.

The head of a fruit fly in cross section

The head of a fruit fly in cross section

Click image to view at full-size

The head of a fruit fly in cross section, showing the brain (blue), compound eyes (red) and adipose tissue (green).

Genes expressed during neural stem cell division

Genes expressed during neural stem cell division

Click image to view at full-size

A Drosophila neural stem cell (NB) divides to generate multiple neurons/glia (progeny) during development. Some of the genes expressed during this process are indicated. Data from C. Maurange et al., 2008.

Selected publications

Our research themes

Click links to view others working on these themes

Top of page

© MRC National Institute for Medical Research
The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA