The Fan laboratory studies the molecular mechanisms that govern mammalian development, using the mouse as a model. They use a combination of biochemical, molecular and genetic approaches to identify and characterize signaling molecules and pathways that control the development and maintenance of the musculoskeletal and hypothalamic systems.
The musculoskeletal system provides the mechanical support for our posture and movement. How it arises during embryogenesis pertains to the basic problem of embryonic induction. How the components of this system are repaired after injury and maintained throughout life is of biological and clinical significance. They study how this system is generated and maintained.
The hypothalamus is an essential brain center that maintains a balance in multiple physiological processes by modulating pituitary hormone secretions. Two centers of the hypothalamus, called the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei (PVN and SON), contain various hormone-producing neurons. Studies of these hormones have been instrumental to our understanding of endocrine balance, including the maintenance of bodily fluids and the balance of energy metabolism. Despite the importance of PVN and SON function, molecules that control their embryonic specification, neuronal differentiation, nucleus formation, and neuronal connections are largely unknown. The lab’s novel approach to studying embryonic development of the PVN and SON has identified a genetic contributor to feeding regulation and obesity in rodents and humans. These developmental studies of the suggest a new avenue for finding genetic determinants of homeostasis regulation.