PHILADELPHIA—Jorge Henao-Mejia, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has received the Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease (PATH) award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an independent foundation based in Research Triangle Park, NC dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences. Henao-Mejia will receive $500,000 over five years, and was one of 12 recipients selected from 152 nominees nationwide.
Under the grant, Henao-Mejia will work to uncover how minute organisms in the gut contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes, findings which could pave the way from new treatments to reduce the ever-growing number of people diagnosed with these serious medical conditions.
All mammals live in symbiosis with the gastrointestinal microbiota: trillions of microorganisms within the gastrointestinal tract, comprising bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other single-celled animals. These microbial communities are essential for many bodily processes, but disturbances in their configuration (dysbiosis) are associated with the development of common human disorders. Exactly how the microbiota regulates key physiological functions in the host remains poorly understood. Under his PATH grant, Henao-Mejia will seek to better understand one of these processes: how the gut microbiota regulates obesity and insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes.
PATH awards provide support for assistant professors to bring multidisciplinary approaches to the study of human infectious diseases, with a focus on how the microbiota affects human health. Henao-Mejia received his medical degree from the University of Antioquia in Colombia and his PhD in microbiology and immunology from Indiana University. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Immunology Department at Yale University, before joining Penn in 2014.
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