MaineHealth Institute for Research Receives $2.1M NIH Grant to Study a Type of Fat & its Energy Burning Capacity

September 2021

Congratulations to Aaron Brown, PhD, the Principal Investigator on a newly awarded five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The Brown Laboratory at MaineHealth Institute for Research studies brown fat, an unusual type of fat that can burn excess calories due to the presence of specialized mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. Brown fat is activated in response to cold, and it converts the calories we eat into heat to keep our bodies warm. More active brown fat is also associated with a reduced risk of metabolic diseases, making it a candidate tissue for therapies. Dr. Brown and his team discovered a group of genes that may enhance the energy burning capacity of brown fat.  This funding will help examine brown fat further and help to  better understand how the mitochondria that are found in brown fat burn energy.  According to Dr. Brown, “This research will eventually allow us to develop new therapies directed at weight loss and reversal of obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. This is exciting research and I look forward to the next five years.”

This R01 launches Dr. Brown’s career as an independent investigator and is testament to MHIR’s strong mentoring program as well as Aaron’s outstanding research skills.  The NIH R01 is the “gold standard” of research grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health.  It is generally a five year grant in the range of $250,000 – $500,000 direct costs per year and is an  investigator-initiated research project addressing a biomedical question that can be basic, translational or clinical research.  The five years gives the researcher time needed to achieve publishable results.  R01s are highly competitive; roughly 19% of R01s are funded by NIH each year. Dr. Brown is the third junior investigator on Dr. Lucy Liaw’s COBRE in Metabolic networks to receive the NIH R01.

The research described is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01DK124261. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.