Heather Ferris


  • PhD, University of Virginia
  • MD, University of Virginia
  • Residency, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Clinical Fellowship, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Primary Appointment

  • Clinician and Investigator, Medicine- Endocrinology and Metabolism


Research Interest(s)

The Role of Diabetes in Cognitive Decline

Research Description

People living with Type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Our research uses both cell and animal models to study the impact of diabetes on the brain. In particular, we are interested in:

1. How insulin regulates cholesterol synthesis in the different cell types of the brain and how this impacts brain energetics and function. 2. The potential role of oxidized cholesterol species as signaling molecules in the brain in diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. 3. Understanding the role of insulin in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.

Selected Publications

  • Cai W, Xue C, Sakaguchi M, Konishi M, Shirazian A, Ferris H, Li M, Yu R, Kleinridders A, Pothos E, Kahn C. Insulin regulates astrocyte gliotransmission and modulates behavior. The Journal of clinical investigation. 2018. PMID: 29664737
  • Kleinridders A, Ferris H, Reyzer M, Rath M, Soto M, Manier M, Spraggins J, Yang Z, Stanton R, Caprioli R, Kahn C. Regional differences in brain glucose metabolism determined by imaging mass spectrometry. Molecular metabolism. 2018;12 113-121. PMID: 29681509
  • Ferris H, Isganaitis E, Brown F. Time for an End to Juice in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. JAMA pediatrics. 2017. PMID: 28437541
  • Ferris H, Perry R, Moreira G, Shulman G, Horton J, Kahn C. Loss of astrocyte cholesterol synthesis disrupts neuronal function and alters whole-body metabolism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2017;114(5): 1189-1194. PMID: 28096339 | PMCID: PMC5293102
  • Ferris H, Kahn C. Unraveling the Paradox of Selective Insulin Resistance in the Liver: the Brain-Liver Connection. Diabetes. 2016;65(6): 1481-3. PMID: 27222392 | PMCID: PMC4878421
  • Fukui K, Ferris H, Kahn C. Effect of cholesterol reduction on receptor signaling in neurons. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2015;290(44): 26383-92. PMID: 26370080 | PMCID: PMC4646295
  • Kleinridders A, Ferris H, Cai W, Kahn C. Insulin action in brain regulates systemic metabolism and brain function. Diabetes. 2014;63(7): 2232-43. PMID: 24931034 | PMCID: PMC4066341
  • Ferris H, Williams G, Parker J, Garber J. Therapeutic implications of diffuse hepatic uptake following I-131 therapy for differentiated thyroid cancer. Endocrine practice : official journal of the American College of Endocrinology and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. 2013;19(2): 263-7. PMID: 23529347
  • Suzuki R, Ferris H, Chee M, Maratos-Flier E, Kahn C. Reduction of the cholesterol sensor SCAP in the brains of mice causes impaired synaptic transmission and altered cognitive function. PLoS biology. 2013;11(4): e1001532. PMID: 23585733 | PMCID: PMC3621654
  • Ferris H, Kahn C. New mechanisms of glucocorticoid-induced insulin resistance: make no bones about it. The Journal of clinical investigation. 2012;122(11): 3854-7. PMID: 23093783 | PMCID: PMC3484465
  • Ferris H, Hunt S. Destination ventricular assist devices for heart failure #205. Journal of palliative medicine. 2009;12(10): 956-7. PMID: 19807242
  • Ferris H, Walsh H, Stevens J, Fallest P, Shupnik M. Luteinizing hormone beta promoter stimulation by adenylyl cyclase and cooperation with gonadotropin-releasing hormone 1 in transgenic mice and LBetaT2 Cells. Biology of reproduction. 2007;77(6): 1073-80. PMID: 17699734
  • Ferris H, Shupnik M. Mechanisms for pulsatile regulation of the gonadotropin subunit genes by GNRH1. Biology of reproduction. 2006;74(6): 993-8. PMID: 16481592
  • Curtin D, Ferris H, Häkli M, Gibson M, Jänne O, Palvimo J, Shupnik M. Small nuclear RING finger protein stimulates the rat luteinizing hormone-beta promoter by interacting with Sp1 and steroidogenic factor-1 and protects from androgen suppression. Molecular endocrinology (Baltimore, Md.). 2004;18(5): 1263-76. PMID: 14988433
  • Haisenleder D, Ferris H, Shupnik M. The calcium component of gonadotropin-releasing hormone-stimulated luteinizing hormone subunit gene transcription is mediated by calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase type II. Endocrinology. 2003;144(6): 2409-16. PMID: 12746302
  • Ferris H, Tapia J, García L, Jensen R. CCKA receptor activation stimulates p130(Cas) tyrosine phosphorylation, translocation, and association with Crk in rat pancreatic acinar cells. Biochemistry. 1999;38(5): 1497-508. PMID: 9931015
  • Tapia J, Ferris H, Jensen R, García L. Cholecystokinin activates PYK2/CAKbeta by a phospholipase C-dependent mechanism and its association with the mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling pathway in pancreatic acinar cells. The Journal of biological chemistry. 1999;274(44): 31261-71. PMID: 10531323
  • Ferris H, Carroll R, Lorimer D, Benya R. Location and characterization of the human GRP receptor expressed by gastrointestinal epithelial cells. Peptides. 1997;18(5): 663-72. PMID: 9213359
  • Ferris H, Carroll R, Rasenick M, Benya R. Constitutive activation of the gastrin-releasing peptide receptor expressed by the nonmalignant human colon epithelial cell line NCM460. The Journal of clinical investigation. 1997;100(10): 2530-7. PMID: 9366567 | PMCID: PMC508453