Vol 9. Issue 15 / May 4, 2009
Scripps Research Appoints Two New Faculty Members to the Department of Metabolism and Aging in Florida
By Eric Sauter
The Scripps Research Institute has named two new faculty members to the Department of Metabolism and Aging on the Scripps Florida campus. The two new faculty members are Associate Professor Andrew A. Butler and Assistant Professor Shuji Kishi.
"I'm very pleased that Shuji Kishi and Andrew Butler are joining the metabolism and aging faculty," said Roy Smith, chairman of the department. "The study of metabolic disorders that accompany aging is a critically important area of research that has an impact on quality of life for all of us. Both new faculty members bring extraordinary talent and creativity to apply to these issues. Shiji and Andrew have specialized experience that compliments that of the current faculty; the combination of talents will accelerate the pace of discovery in the collaborative environment at Scripps Florida."
Butler, 41, was associate professor and director of the Animal Metabolism and Behavior Core at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, part of the Louisiana State University system before arriving at Scripps Research. At Pennington, Butler focused on the study of metabolism and the problems associated with obesity and other metabolic disorders, including fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. In a recent study, Butler and his colleagues identified a new liver hormone called adropin, which rises in response to high-fat foods and falls after fasting. The protein appears to play a role in governing the activity of other metabolic genes, particularly those involved in the production of lipids from carbohydrates. Butler is also interested in novel regulators of circadian rhythms, sleep, and metabolism.
"I find the prospect of working in an environment that is more focused on translational research, especially with the medicinal chemistry resources at Scripps Research, tremendously exciting," Butler said. "Scripps Research is the premier research institute in the U.S. with exceptional drug development resources, which will help further my major research goals, including the identification of the adropin receptor and determining if we can build a new class of drugs with this receptor as the target."
Butler said he looks forward to working with Smith, and to continuing his collaborations with Tom Burris, another Pennington alumnus who recently joined the Scripps Research faculty on the Jupiter campus.
Kishi was an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center before arriving at the Scripps Florida campus. At Harvard, Kishi's research was aimed at the development of the zebrafish as a genetic model for the study of aging and age-associated diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and cancer. He currently holds a joint appointment at Harvard.
"It's a great honor for me to become part of Scripps Research," Kishi said, "and an opportunity to expand my work in the development of zebrafish genetic models for aging. These models not only provide access to the embryo for small molecule screening for different drug targets in high-throughput ways, they broaden our overall understanding of the physiology of aging as well as the pathophysiology of age-related multiple disorders and metabolic syndromes. With them, we hope to identify compounds that will protect cells, organs, and bodies against oxidative damage, a major issue in aging."
Zebrafish (Danio rerio) offer a number of advantages for study because embryonic development is external to the mother and the embryos are transparent, making them an ideal model for developmental biology, as well as for functional genetic and genomic approaches to elucidate disease mechanisms, having genes homologous to more than 80 percent of the genes found in humans. In recent studies, Kishi has already identified several potential aging biomarkers and associated genes, which may help to illuminate the molecular mechanisms of common pathways of aging in vertebrates from fish to humans.
"In vertebrate organisms, it had not previously been possible to carry out systematic screens for genes that are important for stress responses and aging in an unbiased way," Kishi said. "Our study showed that biomarkers of the stress response in zebrafish embryos are consistent with degeneration and advanced aging phenotypes in adults, since many of the genes identified in the screen also induce aging-related phenotypes in adult zebrafish. Our work revealed for the first time the potential for zebrafish as a tractable vertebrate model for the identification of aging-related genes, and has provided valuable resources for the advance of aging research."
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu