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Professor gets $2.5 million MERIT award to study how body breaks down fat

ATLANTA--Dr. Timothy J. Bartness, a Regents' Professor of Biology and director of the Center for Obesity Reversal at Georgia State University, has received a five-year, $2.5 million renewal of the MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to study lipolysis, the breakdown of body fat, and thermogenesis, or heat production, from specialized fat cells.

Bartness, a world-renowned obesity researcher, has studied obesity for more than 30 years. His laboratory is focused on how the brain communicates with adipose tissue (fat) and how fat communicates with the brain, a bidirectional communication that seems to be responsible for controlling the breakdown of fat and functioning as the principal way mammals decrease their body fat.

Bartness' research addresses why there are differences in fat deposition in humans and non-human animals. Body fat distribution and the consequent changes in metabolism are thought to be critical factors contributing to the metabolic syndrome risk factors (insulin resistance, high blood triglycerides and high blood pressure) that often lead to heart disease, diabetes and other maladies.

The prestigious award is bestowed to the recipient, rather than applied for, based on nomination by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) division, in this case NIDDK. Less than 5 percent of NIH-funded investigators are selected to receive MERIT awards.

Bartness' research grant had been funded for 25 consecutive years before the first five years of the MERIT award. In the University System of Georgia, there are three MERIT award recipients, including Bartness and two researchers at the University of Georgia.

To be recommended, the principal investigator must have an outstanding record of productivity, creativity and impact in the research area represented by the grant, as well as an outstanding record of service to the scientific community. Bartness serves on five editorial boards, was president of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, has served on the NIH Neurobiology, Neuroimmunology and Behavior Initial Review Group, serves on the Integrative Physiology of Obesity and Diabetes study section and is a reviewer for more than 100 scientific journals.

Contact: LaTina Emerson
Georgia State University

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