Many complex diseases in the modern world arise from an ill-defined interaction between genes and the environment. While it is feasible to study human genetics in great detail it is much harder to study the impact of environment particularly over long time periods. For this reason, we rely on model systems such as fly and mouse. Here we can house these animals under identical conditions and accurately control their diet and monitor health in an ongoing basis.
We are currently performing detailed analysis of different food environments across a multitude of genetic backgrounds. In flies we can clearly see that the genetic background has a profound influence on the diet response and we are starting to see the same thing across different mouse models. We are now expanding our efforts in mouse and we have acquired from Grant Morahan from UWA a highly unique collection of diversity outbred mice that yields considerable genetic diversity. We aim to devote considerable effort to mapping the food-gene boundary in these animals in the coming years with the hope of advancing our understanding of this axis in humans.