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Jennifer W. Hill, PhD. Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.
Dr. Jennifer Hill received her PhD degree in Neuroscience from Northwestern University where she studied the role of neuropeptide Y in reproduction in the laboratory of Dr. Jon Levine. Her postdoctoral work investigating the hypothalamic regulation of food intake and glucose homeostasis began at Harvard University's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical center and was completed at UT Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas) in the laboratory of Dr. Joel Elmquist. Her primary interest is nutritional infertility and the impact of energy balance on the hypothalamic control of reproduction.
The brain blocks reproduction in animals under metabolic stress. About 5% of women of reproductive age suffer from infertility related to eating disorders. On the opposite end of the spectrum, obesity and diabetes also negatively affect fertility. As rates of these diseases rise, the need to unravel the hypothalamic homeostatic mechanisms controlling body weight and fertility and the interactions between these two systems is clear.
Within the hypothalamus, GnRH neurons maintain fertility and receive input from surrounding neurons involved in the regulation of food intake. The goal of research in the Hill laboratory is to (1) identify the circulating metabolic factors that are perceived directly or indirectly by GnRH neurons and convey information influencing GnRH release, and (2) to develop a clear picture of how the GnRH neuron interacts with surrounding neuronal subtypes leading to reproduction appropriately timed for periods of energy availability. Among other techniques, the laboratory uses interventional genetic studies to analyze the function of specific neuronal populations within the hypothalamus. By deleting receptors for adiposity signals only from POMC neurons, her laboratory has recently identified overlapping intracellular signals responsible for the maintenance of normal reproductive function.
Dr. Hill has authored more than 7 peer-reviewed articles. Her laboratory is funded from grants from the NIH and institutional funds.