All organs of the human body interact with each other through hormones, released metabolites, and other messengers. The Interorgan Toxicology team investigates how organs communicate with each other and how these interactions are altered in diseased conditions with special consideration of the corresponding tissue-specific metabolic processes.
Building on its expertise in lipid metabolism, current work is focused on the highly relevant non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), with the aim to understand how chronically increased fatty acid influx into the liver results in metabolic alterations that compromise liver function, and how this affects other organs. Recent work has identified a reduced capacity of the steatotic liver to detoxify glyoxylate, which leads to elevated production of oxalate, a harmful waste product involved in kidney stone formation. This finding provides a mechanistic explanation for the increased risk of kidney stones and chronic kidney disease in NAFLD patients.
Interorgan toxicology employs various techniques that allow the systematic evaluation of metabolic processes between organs. Among others, research activities include:
- Establishment and characterization of relevant in vivo and in vitro models of fatty liver disease.
- Interventions to study specific gene functions, such as knockout models and rescue by viral-mediated gene transfer.
- Quantification of key lipids and metabolites in tissues and body fluids in collaboration with different partners