Dr. Alex Keene, Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Jupiter Life Science Initiative faculty member, has received a four-year National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) R01 research grant totaling $450,016 for his collaborative project with fellow principal investigator Dr. Suzanne McGaugh from the University of Minnesota.

Their project entitled “Understanding Complex Trait Architecture through Population Genomics” utilizes genomic and transgenic technology in Mexican cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus) to identify genetic loci that contribute to sleep, feeding, and metabolism. The Mexican cavefish exhibits a dramatic evolution of sleep loss, hyperphagia, and obesity compared to a surface fish of the same species, thus, providing a unique and powerful model for identifying genetic factors regulating these traits. Sleep and metabolic disorders present an enormous health burden throughout the world. Functional investigation of the genes and neural circuits regulating sleep loss will help illuminate the interaction between insomnia, obesity, and metabolic disorders. Beyond the immediate scientific goals, transgenic and genomic tools and techniques will be established and will provide a valuable resource and can be applied to address questions beyond the scope in this proposal, including in investigations of eye-degeneration and autism.