Discovery and Innovation

Published On 05/05/2015

The Pediatric Obesity program collaborates with academic and community partners to study pediatric obesity. Researchers are studying how genetic, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to the development of obesity and its complications. Our research bridges laboratory, clinical and public health studies.


We study the causes of obesity and obesity-related complications using molecular,cellular and animal models.

Current Projects:

  • Hosting weekly seminars where scientists, clinicians and community advocates meet to discuss obesity-related topics with the goal of fostering interdisciplinary research collaborations across the Mid-South
  • Studying how the body senses nutrients and regulates the storage of carbohydrates, fats and proteins
  • Researching hormonal control of appetite, energy expenditure and metabolism of glucose and lipids


We study how diet, physical activity, fat and muscle balance, psychological factors and genetic makeup affect health and well-being.

 Current projects:

  • Studying the impact of nutrition, exercise, and sleep on body composition, physical fitness, and cognitive functioning 
  • Investigating the specific risk factors for developing the components of metabolic syndrome: abdominal obesity, hypertension, impaired glucose tolerance, abnormal lipids, inflammation and fatty liver disease
  • Learning how the body regulates energy balance by studying genetic conditions that predispose children to obesity: Prader-Willi Syndrome, brain-derived neurotrophic factor insufficiency (WAGR/11p Deletion
    Syndrome), ciliopathies (Bardet-Biedl and Alstr?m Syndromes) and mutations of the leptin signaling pathway 
  • Examining how body composition and exercise affects brain structure and basic sensory and motor functions

Public Health 

We study the social, economic and environmental factors of obesity.

Current Projects:

  • Assessing health complications, defining challenges and evaluating stakeholder interests related to obesity prevention and treatment across the greater Memphis area
  • Determining the effectiveness of established and new initiatives related to health promotion within school and community settings
  • Developing obesity-related public health strategies based on current knowledge, community initiatives and our study outcomes

Future Directions

  • Testing specific diets, exercise protocols and drug therapies as novel treatments for obesity using animal models 
  • Designing clinical care based on a precision medicine approach in which obesity treatment is tailored for specific conditions 
  • Identifying obstacles and solutions for access to healthcare, healthful foods, wellness knowledge and safer neighborhoods throughout the Mid-South