Kong Y. Chen, Ph.D.


Energy Metabolism Section, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch


Building 10, Room 5-3671
10 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20814



Research Topics

Research Goal

Our studies are aimed to improve our understanding of normal human physiology and diseases such as obesity.

Current Research

My laboratory focuses on human energy metabolism as it relates to health and disease.  We have developed advanced techniques such as the whole-room indirect calorimeters (also called respiration or metabolic chambers) that we use to measure the rate of energy expenditure at the minute-by-minute level and substrate oxidation for several hours or for several days.  We can also simultaneously measure movement and physiological parameters in this well-controlled environment to study the impacts of physical activities, diets, medications, and environmental temperatures on energy metabolism, heart rate, and hormonal responses. Currently, we are working to improve our understanding of human dynamic regulation of energy expenditure in response to subtle changes in environmental temperature. In particular, we are interested in studying the capacity of facultative thermogenesis, defined as an increase in energy expenditure (EE or heat production) to a changed environmental temperature. Combined with the ongoing research on brown adipose tissue (BAT), we are also quantifying the different contributions from BAT and muscle in lean and obese individuals.  We are also developing new technologies for measuring body composition and physical activity in humans.​  

Applying our Research

The obesity epidemic has increased the general interests in metabolism and diet. By studying both normal healthy volunteers and patients who are obese or have other metabolic conditions, we can better understand how our metabolism is regulated. This may lead to better treatment and prevention strategies.

Need for Further Study

The metabolic responses to common environmental stimuli, as simple as room temperature, and how individuals are different, are not well understood.


  • Assistant Professor of Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, and Surgery, Vanderbilt University, 1997-2006
  • M.S., Vanderbilt University, 2002
  • Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, 1997

Selected Publications

  1. Leitner BP, Huang S, Brychta RJ, Duckworth CJ, Baskin AS, McGehee S, Tal I, Dieckmann W, Gupta G, Kolodny GM, Pacak K, Herscovitch P, Cypess AM, Chen KY. Mapping of human brown adipose tissue in lean and obese young men. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017;114(32):8649-8654.

  2. Chen KY, Brychta RJ, Linderman JD, Smith S, Courville A, Dieckmann W, Herscovitch P, Millo CM, Remaley A, Lee P, Celi FS. Brown fat activation mediates cold-induced thermogenesis in adult humans in response to a mild decrease in ambient temperature. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(7):E1218-23.

  3. Lee P, Smith S, Linderman J, Courville AB, Brychta RJ, Dieckmann W, Werner CD, Chen KY, Celi FS. Temperature-acclimated brown adipose tissue modulates insulin sensitivity in humans. Diabetes. 2014;63(11):3686-98.

  4. Chen KY, Cypess AM, Laughlin MR, Haft CR, Hu HH, Bredella MA, Enerbäck S, Kinahan PE, Lichtenbelt Wv, Lin FI, Sunderland JJ, Virtanen KA, Wahl RL. Brown Adipose Reporting Criteria in Imaging STudies (BARCIST 1.0): Recommendations for Standardized FDG-PET/CT Experiments in Humans. Cell Metab. 2016;24(2):210-22.

  5. Chen KY, Muniyappa R, Abel BS, Mullins KP, Staker P, Brychta RJ, Zhao X, Ring M, Psota TL, Cone RD, Panaro BL, Gottesdiener KM, Van der Ploeg LH, Reitman ML, Skarulis MC. RM-493, a melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) agonist, increases resting energy expenditure in obese individuals. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015;100(4):1639-45.

This page was last updated on December 9th, 2018