New Research Core Focuses on Metabolism

Fluorescent image displays different levels of mitochondrial activity, in red and green, in a mouse heart. Mitochondria produce energy for cells through cellular respiration.

A new research facility at Cedars-Sinai focuses on how body cells generate energy. The main goal of the Metabolism and Mitochondrial Research Core is to provide scientists with comprehensive tools and services to analyze this essential process and incorporate it into their studies.

Mitochondria, the organelles found outside the nucleus that produce energy for cells through cellular respiration, are integral to understanding a wide variety of disorders, according to core director Roberta Gottlieb, MD. Among these disorders are cancer, heart disease, skeletal disorders, Alzheimer's disease, retinal disorders, bowel disease, obesity and diabetes,

"If we tune up the mitochondria, we can treat a lot of diseases," said Gottlieb, who also is director of molecular cardiobiology at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and professor of Medicine.

Among the tools at the new core are two Seahorse Bioscience instruments, which measure the rates of oxygen consumption and extracellular acidification in cells and mitochondria; and a Keyence BZ-X700 fluorescent microscope with multiple capabilities, including 3-D deconvolution and quantitative image analysis. The core also offers access to two-photon fluorescence microscopes at Cedars-Sinai's Microscopy Core.

Roberta Gottlieb, MD

One section of the new core is devoted to measuring metabolism — the processes by which nutrients are broken down or stored for later use — at the whole-body level, using mouse models. "Mitochondria can affect energy metabolism of the whole organism," said Miklos Peterfy, PhD, the director at the core who oversees this section. "This process can alter body fat composition, a key factor in metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes." Whole-body fat and muscle content in mice can be quickly and easily measured using an EchoMRI instrument at the core.

Peterfy, an associate professor of Medicine who also directs the Murine Models of Metabolic Disease Lab, also can help investigators design animal experiments that use so-called metabolic cages. These cages provide measurements of food intake, energy expenditure, respiratory exchange ratio and physical activity in a non-invasive way.

With the launch of the new core, Cedars-Sinai scientists no longer need to transfer cellular materials and mice to other institutions to access Seahorse instruments or perform whole-body studies, Gottlieb explained. "We hope the Metabolism and Mitochondrial Research Core will bring in a new era of metabolism research at Cedars-Sinai," she said.