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Q&A With Dr. Norihiro Imai

Institution: Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Project Title: Muscle-Specific Metabolic Regulation by Thioesterase Superfamily Member 2 (Them2) in the Pathogenesis of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease


1. What is your first memory/experience of wanting to be involved in scientific research?

While working as a clinical investigator, I was inspired to study the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which is rapidly increasing in prevalence in developed and developing countries.

2. How did you learn that you had won an ALF Research Award?

I received message from my PI and the ALF simultaneously.

3. Describe your Research Award Project in very simple (layman) language?

My research project explores the impact of Them2 in skeletal and heart muscle metabolism on the pathogenesis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

4. What do you hope your research project will lead to:

a. In the short term?

Because Them2 is highly expressed in oxidative tissues, including skeletal and cardiac muscle, we hypothesized that Them2 in muscle may be primarily responsible for the development of obesity and fatty liver in the high fat diet fed mouse.

b. In its overall contribution to a specific area of liver research?

We expect that our studies may reveal novel strategies for the management of obesity, diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

5. How did you first hear about the ALF Research Award Program?

I heard about the program from my colleagues and mentor.

6. What is the one thing you would like readers to know about why liver research is so important?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease worldwide. Patients with NAFLD are prone to have metabolic comorbidities, such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension, whereas those with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) may also go on to develop cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Despite its widespread prevalence, current treatment options for NAFLD/NASH remain limited essentially to therapeutic lifestyle changes.

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