Elijah Trefts

Graduate Student, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics

Liver is a primary site of macronutrient metabolism. Obesity linked diseases of the liver such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) result in ECM expansion, defective hormonal responses, and disrupted transcriptional networks. Integrin receptors and their immediate post-receptor pathways convert sensory inputs from the ECM to biochemical processes within the cell. Altered expression of several integrin signaling components accompanies the metabolic dysregulation that occurs in high fat (HF)-fed mice. The mechanisms linking ECM expansion and integrin signaling to metabolic disease are a primary focus of our lab. My research utilizes hepatocyte specific knockout of several integrin signaling components (e.g. integrin α5, integrin β1, and Integrin-linked kinase) in mice to fully characterize these pathways and their involvement in pathologic responses of the liver to high fat feeding.

Dr. Sari Acra’s independent research focuses on nutritional contributors, such as energy balance and body composition to human diseases. Specifically, measurement of energy metabolism using whole-room indirect calorimeters (metabolic chambers) coupled with movement sensors provide an environment where a subject’s/patient's energy expenditure, substrate oxidation, physical activity and body composition are accurately measured on a minute-by-minute basis. Through this approach, his lab is investigating the physiological regulation of energy metabolism, as well as improving the technologies for measuring body composition and physical activity.  Dr. Acra’s clinical expertise lies in pediatric gastroenterology, which offers clinical insights during my training. Specifically exposure to fatty liver diseases at various points in human development directly benefits my experiments determining molecular changes that occur as FLD progresses.