Xia Lei

Many secreted proteins circulating in the blood are responsible for the altered metabolic parameters in patients with obesity and diabetes. In Dr. Wong’s lab, we study a novel family of secreted proteins called CTRPs, many of which appear to be metabolically relevant. My project provided the first genetic and physiological evidence that one of these proteins, known as CTRP6, functions as a secreted metabolic/immune regulator linking obesity to adipose tissue inflammation and insulin resistance. The results are promising and can potentially guide researchers in the development of new therapeutic targets for the treatment of obesity and diabetes.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

Johns Hopkins was my dream school for postdoc training when I was a graduate student in China. It is well-known for its leading biomedical research. When I finally got here, the great academic atmosphere really attracted me. Great faculty, plenty of opportunities for collaboration, numerous seminars and workshops, and extensive discussion with peers all helped me to grow in my research field. This excellent environment filled my postdoc life with challenges and excitement.

What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received?

I am truly honored to receive this award. It means a lot to me, especially now, near the end of my postdoc training, as it makes me feel that my research in these several years is valued and recognized. I feel so inspired and more confident to take the next steps to become an independent investigator. This award will be a reminder for me to learn from Dr. Taussig and continuously contribute my career to medical research.

What contributed to your project’s success (special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.)?

My project would not be successful without Dr. Wong’s guidance and my lab members’ support. I also got support from a two-year postdoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association. During this project, I was trained with independent thinking, careful observation and proficient animal-handling techniques, especially hydrodynamic tail vein injection.

What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles student and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins?

Young Investigators’ Day offers a great opportunity for students and postdocs to get their work evaluated by a committee. The awards will give tremendous encouragement to young investigators in their future careers.

What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins?

Our lab shares a large laboratory space as well as many instruments with several other labs, which is so convenient for lab-to-lab communication. We also have joint lipid lab meetings, which provide an opportunity for thought exchange among several labs with common research interests in lipid metabolism. In the lab, people are really friendly and always help each other, especially when we do metabolic tests for our mice. In addition to enjoyable research, I met my husband here.

What are your plans over the next year or so?

I will apply for a faculty position this fall, and I plan to establish my own lab and continue my research on glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as pathophysiology of obesity and diabetes.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences?

I enjoy playing badminton with my husband and our friends. I also really like gardening—it is so joyful to watch the growth of every amazing life from seed to plant.