Theodore Braun, MD/PhD student, receives Young Investigators Award for work on cachexia

Ted BraunTheodore Braun, an MD/PhD student in the Daniel Marks Lab located in the Pape Pediatric Research Institute, was recently invited to give a major talk at the 6th International Cachexia Conference in Milan, Italy.

His talk, entitled “Central nervous system control of inflammation induced muscle catabolism,” was based on data he developed in the lab, and which has recently been published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Theodore’s presentation received the conference’s highest award, the Young Investigators Award (of which he was the only recipient).

“This paper is the result of a great deal of hard work from Ted, with meaningful contributions from the whole lab,” said Daniel Marks, MD, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics. “While the paper includes some very modern molecular biology, the primary results were gleaned from thoughtful, careful whole animal physiology and histology.”

The research is focused on understanding why muscle breaks down excessively during inflammatory states. The clinical condition, cachexia, occurs in a variety of chronic diseases, and includes anorexia, lethargy, and excessive muscle catabolism as cardinal features. The prevailing view of scientific thought in this field has been that the inflammation (cytokines, in particular) act directly on muscle. 

Theodore and fellow investigators believed it was likely that muscle breakdown included a relay through the brain, as a part of an elaborate coordinated metabolic response to inflammation. “Our work confirmed that inflammation confined only to the brain leads to rapid muscle breakdown,” said Theodore Braun. “We also discovered the neuroendocrine pathway involved in producing this outcome.”

Previously, every inflammatory condition the team studied in the Marks Lab caused inflammation in the brain. With this study, it now appears that the idea that muscle breakdown during disease is an entirely peripheral (outside of the brain) process must be discarded, and instead replaced with a new mechanism that incorporates key signaling intermediates in the brain in this process.

As a result, Theodore’s work provides a new handle on potential treatments for cachexia in chronic disease, a condition that has been notoriously difficult to treat in the past.

“It was a proud moment for me personally to see Ted get this award at our most important international meeting,” said Dr. Marks. “This was a well deserved recognition of the work involved, and also of Ted’s potential as an outstanding physician scientist.”

Pictured: Ted Braun (Left) and Dr. Marks