Identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying sex differences in fat storage using Drosophila as a model

In Canada, metabolic diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity) are leading causes of death, disability, and hospitalization. Currently, more than 10 million Canadians suffer from metabolic disease, with direct and indirect costs to the economy estimated to be $20 billion each year. Approximately 40% more men than women suffer from metabolic disease. In addition, commonly prescribed drugs used to prevent and treat metabolic disease are more effective in one sex than the other (e.g. fenofibrates). Despite these known differences in metabolic disease between men and women, prevention and treatment guidelines remain largely the same for both.

The main reason doctors do not treat men and women differently is due to lack of vital information about the fundamental metabolic differences between the sexes. The next step forward in preventing and treating metabolic disease is identification of the genes and pathways that control metabolism in each sex. This will provide researchers with a pool of promising new targets that will assist in developing therapies that will be effective in men and women, and eventually help in designing sex-specific treatment guidelines.

Dr. Rideout's research will work towards discovery of these genes and pathways using fruit flies as an innovative model, integrating the unparalleled genetic toolkit available to fly researchers with cutting-edge high-throughput metabolic analysis to answer three fundamental questions: firstly, which genes and pathways are essential for metabolic control in each sex; second, how sex-specific metabolic programs are established and maintained; and lastly, how sex differences in metabolism change in distinct contexts. Dr. Rideout will focus on sex differences in the regulation of fat storage, a key aspect of metabolism. 

Dr. Rideout's research outputs will be the identification of a pool of candidate genes that affect fat storage in each sex. Building on this vital starting point by translating this knowledge into pre-clinical models, and eventually humans, she will collaborate with world-leading experts in diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in the Diabetes Research Group at The University of British Columbia. The innovative approach of this research program will make important strides towards developing personalized therapies for men and women, an important goal in modern medicine.