Attie awarded RC2 grant to study genetic variation in response to diet

Professor Alan Attie has been awarded an RC2 grant through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease to explore the role of genetic variation in the response to two popular human diets.

Obesity and related metabolic disorders have reached a historic high worldwide. While health experts have long debated the benefits of two disparate diets, high-fat/low-carb vs. low-fat/high-carb, clinical studies have not determined which diet achieves optimal metabolic health.

Alan Attie and collaborators
Biochemistry researchers Alan Attie, Mark Keller and Judith Simcox are joined in the grant by their collaborators Gary Churchill, Richard Kibbey and Federico Rey.

“Despite many years of research in humans and model organisms,” said Attie, “there remains no clear consensus about which diet is most compatible with human health. But the premise of this statement is that a single diet is ideal for everyone. We know from our work in mice that different mouse strains respond differently to different diets, thus they harbor genetic variants that favor particular diets.”

Attie’s study will investigate the genetic variants that determine this metabolic flux.

“Our collaborator, Dr. Richard Kibbey,” said Attie, “has developed a method that uses stable isotope tracers to simultaneously interrogate many metabolic pathways. We will be able to genetically map the drivers that modify metabolic flux in response to the two extreme diets.” Identifying these markers is the first step toward matching diets to individuals.

The RC2 award will provide a total of $8.2M over five years to fund the discovery of genes and pathways that mediate diet responsiveness, and will be carried out in collaboration with Biochemistry researchers Attie, Distinguished Scientist Mark Keller, and Assistant Professor Judith Simcox, and Bacteriology Associate Professor Federico Rey at UW-Madison, along with Richard Kibbey (Yale) and Gary Churchill (Jackson Lab).