An energetic pursuit

Metabolism research at Whitehead Institute

A person picks molecules off trees.

When we take in energy as food or drink, a complex suite of chemical reactions allow us to turn it into usable fuel. The sum of these reactions, within each cell and throughout the body, makes up our metabolism. At Whitehead Institute, researchers are delving into the mechanisms behind metabolism from a variety of angles: How can we efficiently model diseases such as diabetes that affect metabolism? How are medicines metabolized, and how can we harness our knowledge of metabolic pathways to help drugs reach their targets? How are animals able to reduce their metabolic rates when they enter states of hibernation or torpor? What molecules can’t plant metabolism make? Browse this collection of multimedia stories to learn about all these projects and more.

Multimedia stories

Whitehead Institute Member Jing-Ke Weng studies plant metabolism, the set of processes plants use to produce thousands of unique molecules, many of which have potent medicinal properties. The Weng lab is hunting for more of these molecules in the wild, and developing strategies to sustainably produce plant molecules already of interest at scale.

Introducing Sinisa Hrvatin, who joined Whitehead Institute as a Member this year. Hrvatin, who completed his postdoc at Harvard Medical School, studies how cells initiate, regulate, and survive states of stasis, including hibernation.

Institute researchers continue to pioneer a deeper understanding of how metabolic processes contribute to health and disease – with long-term implications that could range from new treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes to methods for slowing the aging process. Here are a few examples of Whitehead Institute scientists’ creative and pioneering work in the field of metabolism.