Welcome Letter from the Acting Chair
Welcome to the Department of Molecular Metabolism at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. We are an interdisciplinary life sciences department housed in a world-class school of public health. Why merge the biological laboratory sciences with traditional public health disciplines? Widespread non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, neurological disorders, and cancer, are a global health problem of increasing severity that account for the vast majority of human morbidity and death. These complex, multifactorial diseases arise through a poorly understood interplay between genetic and environmental factors, with deviations in normal cellular and systemic metabolism emerging as a shared underlying feature.
Metabolism refers to the vital and dynamic chemical reactions through which nutrients are interconverted to generate or store energy or produce the core components that make up our cells and tissues. These reactions form the homeostatic basis of life on this planet. The faculty of the Department of Molecular Metabolism lead laboratory research teams focused on unraveling the molecular mechanisms through which key metabolic reactions and processes are controlled and coordinated with other physiological activities and how dysfunction in these control mechanisms cause or contribute to the most common human diseases. As metabolic dysfunction is a feature of old age and aging is a primary risk factor for all of these diseases, projects in the Department are also geared toward delineating the nature of these connections. Our emphasis on the mechanistic underpinnings of human health and disease employs cutting-edge approaches across the spectrum of biological sciences, including biochemistry and biophysics, cell biology, physiology, systems biology, and genetics applied to both cell and animal models.
Despite our foundation in basic science, research in the Department of Molecular Metabolism does not lie at the ground level of public health research, but rather at the center of it. Our research goals are based on the premise that elucidating how we sense and respond to nutrients and other environmental factors to properly control metabolic processes is pivotal to defining how the risk factors revealed through epidemiological studies contribute to the onset or course of human diseases. It is this mechanistic focus on “how” that allows us to identify new therapeutic targets or approaches to prevent or treat the most common global health threats, prioritizing a major mission of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.