Zempleni to represent UNL at international research workshop

Photo of Janos Zempleni

Zempleni to represent UNL at international research workshop

20 Apr 2015    By McKenzie Swanson

MicroRNAs (ribonucleic acid) and other non-coding RNAs are involved in almost every cellular process imaginable. They are also linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart failure, diabetes, and neurological diseases. As such, these RNAs are also becoming targets for drug discovery, and the drugs are rapidly entering clinical trials. Non-coding RNA research is highly translational and can be leveraged to initiate many new collaborations. CEHS’s Dr. Janos Zempleni will attend an international research workshop April 30–May 2 at Ohio State University to engage colleagues on current microRNA research.

The workshop, entitled Non-Coding RNAs: A New Frontier in Biomedical Research, aims to not only further our understanding of microRNAs, but also to foster relationships among participants. The event will bring together scholars from eight Committee of Institutional Cooperation (CIC) universities and researchers affiliated with a unit within Brazil’s Ministry of Education called CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior). Zempleni says the conference is designed with special attention to the potential for future collaborations.

“This conference has two purposes,” said Zempleni. “The scientific dimension… then there’s also a scholarly or training component to this conference—bringing in scholars from Brazil to create collaborations between U.S. institutions and institutions from Brazil and to facilitate the studies of Brazilian students in the United States… I think this is going to be a major part of this conference—all these networking groups and breakout sessions and lunches and joint breakfasts and opportunities to really get to know each other.”

The topic of the event complements Zempleni’s research and UNL’s efforts to increase collaborative research and engagement in Brazil well. Last summer, Zempleni was awarded an $11.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a research center focused on understanding nutrition and obesity at the molecular level. He says that their research at the center indicates that these microRNAs in bioactive food compounds can actually change human gene expression, which can influence things like metabolism, bodily processes, and how a body reacts to certain stimuli. Exploring new avenues for collaboration at the conference could move the center’s research—and research in other related fields— forward even further.

“This is a unique opportunity for Nebraska to identify and attract highly qualified investigators to bring new ideas and initiate new scientific activities in the state,” said Zempleni.

The CIC universities involved in the workshop include: Indiana University, Michigan State, Ohio State, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and Rutgers. 

College of Education and Human Sciences
Nutrition and Health Sciences