Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research

Research goal's significance 
Maintenance of energy homeostasis, i.e. the balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure, has to be maintained in a tight range to ensure metabolic homeostasis, health, and survival of any organism. Throughout evolution, a sophisticated neuronal network has developed that integrates information from the periphery of the organism about the energy availability of the body. This network enables the body to adapt a wide range of behavioral and autonomic responses to precisely control food intake, energy expenditure, and substrate flux across different peripheral organs.

Chronic or even small deviations in this homeostatic regulatory network can result in either massive weight loss or weight gain, as well as associated metabolic disturbances. Worrisomely, over the last decades, the incidence of increased body weight, i.e. obesity, has reached epidemic proportions with more than 30% of the population of industrialized countries being overtly obese and close to 10% developing obesity associated type 2 diabetes mellitus. Of note is that altered energy homeostasis and obesity not only represent a major risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus, but also for cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and certain type of cancers.

How research goals will be achieved
To this end, researchers of the Institute employ state-of-the-art methodologies and technologies to pursue translational research approaches ranging from studies on unraveling underlying molecular mechanisms in cultured cells to defining regulatory mechanisms in model organisms. Finally, hypotheses derived from these approaches are tested and validated through functional imaging in control human subjects as well as patients suffering from obesity and obesity-associated diseases.

Established research collaborations
Experimental work at the Institute is carried out in an interdisciplinary, highly interactive setting and is supported by several local core facilities. The Institute is located in the heart of the medical and natural sciences campus of the University and the University Hospital in Cologne. Our immediate neighbors and scientific partners are the natural science and medicine faculties of the University of Cologne, the Cologne Excellence Cluster on Cellular Stress Responses in Aging-Associated Diseases (CECAD), the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, as well as the Center for Advanced Studies (CAESAR) in Bonn.