BOSTON -Mark Andermann, PhD, a neuroendocrinology investigator at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), has been awarded a prestigious Director's New Innovator award as part of the High Risk-High Reward grant program sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund.
The five-year $1.5 million award will support Andermann's novel investigations into the neural pathways that underlie how hunger drives cravings and intrusive thoughts of food, with the ultimate goal of understanding the roots of these powerful motivational drivers in order to develop therapies to help manage obesity and food addiction.
The New Innovator awards support exceptionally innovative research and are part of the NIH Common Fund's High Risk-High Reward program, created to encourage highly creative research projects that involve inherent risk, but have the potential to lead to biomedical breakthroughs.
Andermann is a faculty member in BIDMC's Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has recently helped establish techniques for imaging hundreds of brain cells in animal models, and his lab will attempt to image ongoing patterns of brain activity that could potentially underlie spontaneous thoughts of food in order to understand how these activity patterns might emerge during the transition from satiety towards natural or artificially induced states of hunger.
"Remarkably little is known about the neural underpinnings of the common - and metabolically costly - processes that occur during the brain's resting state," explains Andermann. "This kind of brain activity can likely give rise to specific mental imagery [such as when you imagine a candy bar wrapper] which, in turn, can have a powerful influence over individuals' future actions, including consuming unhealthy foods or other addictive substances."
With the New Innovator grant, Andermann will continue this line of investigation, with the goal of understanding the roots of hunger, cravings and attention to food cues.
"Mark Andermann's highly novel imaging techniques are revealing key insights into how hunger and external food cues lead to changes in brain activity," says BIDMC Chief Academic Officer Vikas Sukhatme, MD, PhD. "This type of 'high-risk, high-reward' investigation holds tremendous promise to guide the development of therapies for the treatment of obesity and related complications, which continue to rise dramatically throughout the U.S. and the world. Dr. Andermann's work provides a creative new research direction that may ultimately help us to treat and manage this widespread epidemic."
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.
BIDMC is in the community with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit http://www.