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Dr. Danny Ben-Zvi: What can we learn from weight loss surgeries to find new ways to alleviate obesity and diabetes?

Dr. Danny Ben-Zvi
I completed my undergraduate studies in math, physics and chemistry in the Hebrew University, in Talpiot program. For my PhD, I joined the labs of Prof. Naama Barkai and Prof. Benny Shilo in the Weizmann Institute of Science. There, we used mathematical modeling and experiments to understand how the embryo adapts its genetically encoded developmental program to its actual size. I continued with post-doctoral training with Prof. Douglas Melton in Harvard University. I was fascinated by the clinical findings that bariatric, or weight-loss surgeries lead many times not only to sustained weight loss but also to rapid resolution of diabetes and many other cardio-metabolic diseases. Naively, improvement in these diseases can be attributed to weight-loss alone, but we and others have hypothesized that the new anatomy changes the way our body handles food and alters metabolism. To test this idea, we compared several organs of obese mice who have lost weight either through surgery or through food restriction. Using mathematical analyses, we found that surgery elicits profound weight independent effects that support sustained weight loss and improved glucose and lipid regulation.
My family and I returned to Israel in November 2016 and I opened the systems physiology lab in the Hebrew University. We continue to study the weight independent effects of weight-loss surgeries on metabolic disease such as diabetes and fatty liver. This is crucial since the prevalence of these diseases is on the rise, and most metabolic patients are actually not morbidly obese. We work in close collaboration with physicians, use mouse models for diseases and mathematical analysis to harness our finding to find new treatments for these devastating diseases.