Nutrigenomics and Growth Biology Laboratory
The worldwide epidemic of obesity poses a serious problem, which is closely associated with many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, cancers and other diseases, which incur direct medical costs around $200 billion per year, plus human capital loss exceeding $500 billion in the USA alone! Currently, about one third of women between 20-39 years of age are obese, and another one third are overweight, which pre-disposes children to obesity and metabolic diseases. We are exploring the impact of maternal obesity and other physiological conditions on the early development of fetuses, especially the epigenetic mechanisms linking nutrients/metabolites to stem (progenitor) cell differentiation into myocytes and adipocytes. Knowledge obtained through these studies will eventually translate into clinical practice, curbing the vicious cycle between maternal and children obesity, as well as the negative impact of gestational diabetes on offspring health.
In addition, our studies also have applications to animal agriculture. We are studying the impact of early nutrition on the growth and development of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue in beef cattle, which impacts animal production efficiency and meat quality.
We use in vitro cell culture, transgenic animals and livestock as experimental models. A wide range of laboratory techniques are used in our studies, including immunoblotting, ELISA, immunohistochemical staining, 2-dimensional gel electrophoresis and proteomic analyses, real-time PCR, DNA manipulation, RNA interference and epigenetic analyses, pyrosequencing and bioinformatics analysis, as well as traditional biochemical and enzyme activity assays.