Dr. TeSlaa is interested in understanding how metabolism impacts the development of human diseases, in particular metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. To do that, she uses in vivo stable isotope tracing, mass spectrometry, and mathematical modeling to measure metabolic fluxes.

Exciting research project or any highlights in your lab.

Work in the field of cancer metabolism has told us that a cell’s metabolism is different in a culture dish versus when it is in its physiological environment in the body. To study the metabolism of a cell in vivo, however, there is another limitation- metabolism changes immediately when the cell is removed. This limitation makes measuring metabolites in the cell incompatible with relatively slower methods like cell sorting. To overcome this challenge, we are currently working on methods to trace certain isotope labeled metabolites, such as glutamate which serves as a readout of TCA cycle metabolism, into stable macromolecules allowing us retain information about a cell’s metabolism while being able to isolate it from other cell types in the tissue.

How did you decide on your focus of research?

I grew up playing sports, played volleyball in college, and continued to play volleyball on the beach during graduate school. For most people, and especially for athletes, diet is one area in which we feel that we can have some control over their own health. Yet a lot of nutritional advice is not backed up by evidence. The hunger to understand how diet can really impact health and performance has fueled my interest in metabolism.

What brought you to UCLA?

UCLA has a great community of researchers interested in metabolism, of which I am excited to be a part. In addition to the great metabolism work, I value the diversity of research at UCLA and its collaborative environment. I also grew up in LA, so it was my dream to be able to come back and do science here. (The proximity to the beach where I love to play volleyball doesn’t hurt either.)

Do you have a personal motto?

Working hard can get you far, but if you work smarter you can get just as far in less time.

Do you have any hobbies outside of the lab?

I love to play beach volleyball. I think the physical activity (the volleyball), the calming environment (the beach), and the friends that I play with help me stay balanced.


TeSlaa Family