$10,000 Grant Funds Fisher Research on Obesity

April 6, 2021

Dr. Edward Freeman, associate professor of biology at St. John Fisher College, received a $10,000 grant from the Wyman-Potter Foundation to support his research on the impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) on obesity.

Ed Freeman

The Wyman-Potter Foundation grant will support Freeman and two undergraduate science majors in the high-impact, collaborative summer research project as part of the College’s peer-to-peer research model. The two juniors, Joe Current and Caden Jensen, are helping Freeman evaluate the protective effects of various natural products, such as green tree extract, against endocrine disruptor induced changes in lipid metabolism. Recent graduate Maura Connorton was also involved with the research project last summer.

Freemans says the studies address the global obesity epidemic through a larval zebrafish model system.  Zebrafish reproduce easily and grow quickly, allowing them to have metabolic pathways and digestive organs including fat metabolism and pancreas that is similar to humans. The animals are also transparent at the larval stages allowing researchers to directly visualize internal organs and fat storage. Approximately 85 percent of zebrafish genes have a human counterpart. Freeman said that zebrafish have successfully been used as a model for vertebrate research for more than 50 years. The research is estimated to take one to two years depending on the researchers’ ability to regularly obtain zebrafish embryos and the success at rearing the embryos to the correct age. With a few setbacks due to the pandemic, the experiments are currently underway.

The protocols for the growth of larval zebrafish have been compared by two sophomore biology majors to determine which food source and water maintenance program will provide the highest level of larval survival. These protocols are currently being used in the research project to provide larvae for direct experimentation. The larvae will be grown on a standard diet for roughly 20 days and then separated into two groups, with one continuing to receive the standard diet and the other receiving a high fat diet. The researchers will then compare and contrast how the exposure of obesogenic materials can affect specific genes. Freeman’s research will help contribute to people’s understanding of the environmental contributions to obesity. 

This article was written by Riley Moscicki ’21, a PR Writing Intern with the Office of Marketing and Communications.