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NIH Awards $1.6M to Missouri Researcher to Study Genetic Effect on Different Diets

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – University of Missouri researcher Elizabeth King has been awarded a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effect of genetic makeup on the efficacy of certain diets.

King, an assistant professor in the Biological Sciences department of Mizzou's College of Arts and Science, plans to use a fruit fly model system to study how they allocate nutritional resources in response to certain environmental factors.

"We need to know how environment shapes life history to understand why our rich diets cause problems like obesity and diabetes," King said in a statement. "We can't replay our own human evolutionary history with different variations to see the effects, but we can do these experiments with fruit flies and see how different diets affect genes that control things like fat storage, reproduction, and energy use over time."

King will rear three separate fruit fly populations, each on one of three dietary regimes — rich, fluctuating, and deteriorating. She will then observe them over 25 generations to see the evolution of their physiology and genetic makeup. She plans, in part, to test the thrifty-gene hypothesis, which states that an environment punctuated by famines like those that have happened to humans throughout their history favors individuals with genes that make them more likely to store fat. 

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