The primary goal of the Natarajan Lab is to elucidate the cytoprotective roles of dietary nutrients in combating against placental complications that can occur during pregnancy such as Acute fatty liver of pregnancy, Zika virus infection, and maternal obesity. 

Cytoprotection is a process by which chemical compounds provide protection to cells against harmful agents. Through our research, we have identified palmitoleate, an omega-7 monosaturated fatty acid as a cytoprotective nutrient. Foods such as macadamia nuts contain high levels of palmitoleate which can be used as a potential dietary therapy against placental complications as well as a preventative measure against the adverse consequence of placental damage to unborn babies. 

Our long term goals: 

  • Develop a nutraceutical approach to mitigate liver and placental lipotoxicity that occurs during acute fatty liver of pregnancy and maternal obesity, respectively
  • Elucidating the protective role of dietary-palmitoleate supplementation in preventing against Zika virus-induced placenta and fetal brain infection


Sathish Kumar Natarajan Assistant Professor

Lab Members

Chandan Krishnamoorthy

Research: Zika virus and West Nile virus induced endoplasmic reticulum stress and apoptosis to neuronal cells.

Chandan gave an oral presentation on his Zika virus work in the First Annual meeting of the Child Health Research Institute held at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in November 2022.

Aiswariya Ravi

Research: Elucidating the role of HADHA in mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation, cardiolipin synthesis, and super complex formation in trophoblasts, hepatocytes and cardiomyocytes.

Former Lab Members

Taylor Bruett
Undergraduate Student Researcher
Successfully obtained funding from UCARE for her work in the Natarajan Lab.
Tony Delaney
Former Research Technologist with the Natarajan Lab

Research Project Manager with the Office of Research and Economic Development at the University of Nebraska.

Kathryn Hammer

Currently applying to medical school and working in Sioux Falls, SD at a pediatric clinic.

Madison Kraus
Undergraduate Student Researcher
2018-19, 2019-20

Successfully obtained funding from UCARE for her work in the Natarajan Lab.

Awarded the Milton Mohr Scholarship from the Center for Biotechnology from IANR at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2018

Received the Gates Center Summer internship to the University of Colorado Anschultz Medical Campus, 2019

Philma Glora Muthuraj

Graduated with doctorate from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2021.

Joined Veterinary Microbiology Residency Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, August 2021.

Received a travel grant to attend the Gilbert Greenwald Symposium at the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, KS, 2017 and 2018.

Selected to give an oral presentation to the Gilbert Greenwald Symposium at the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, KS, October 2018.

Jillian Power 
Undergraduate Student Researcher

Successfully obtained funding from UCARE for her work in the Natarajan Lab.

Received ARD undergraduate Scholarship Award from IANR at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Ellie Rautio

Completing Dietetic internship with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Prakash Kumar Sahoo

Graduated from UNL with a PhD in Summer of 2023 and stayed with the Natarajan Lab as postdoc until January 2024.

Currently serving as a postdoc in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Mwiza Aline Uwashimimana

Now pursuing master of science in nutrition and public health at Purdue University.

Jenna Whitmore
Undergraduate Student Researcher from 
Nebraska Wesleyan

Now pursuing Professional Studies in Dietetics as a graduate student in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

 In the News

Project studying impacts of dietary macadamia nuts on prevention of maternal obesity-induced complications

Faculty, team excellence recognized during 2023 IANR Distinguished Faculty Celebration

Study links omega fatty acids with infant growth

Nutrient compound shows promise for halting mother-to-fetus Zika transmission

Blog tech roundup, April-23-2021

 Selected Publications


Natarajan Lab publications

Bioactive metabolites of OMEGA-6 and OMEGA-3 fatty acids are associated with inflammatory cytokine concentrations in maternal and infant plasma at the time of delivery
Slotkowski R, VanOrmer M, Akbar A, Hahka T, Thompson M, Rapoza R, Ulu A, Thoene M, Lyden E, Mukherjee M, Yuil-Valdes A, Natarajan SK, Nordgren T, Hanson C, Berry AA. 
Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2024 Apr; 60:223-233.
doi: 10.1013/j.clnesp.2024.02.006 Epub Feb 7.
PMID 38479914 Free article.

The impact of iron supplementation on the preterm neonatal gut microbiome: A pilot study
Van Ormer M, Thompson M, Thoene M, Riethoven JJ, Natarajan SK, Hanson C, Anderson-Berry A.
PLoS One. 2024 Feb 21;19(2):e0297558.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0297558. eCollection 2024.
PMID: 38381745 Free PMC article.

Palmitate induces integrated stress response and lipoapoptosis in trophoblasts
Sahoo PK, Krishnamoorthy C, Wood JR, Hanson C, Anderson-Berry A, Mott JL, Natarajan SK.
Cell Death Dis. 2024 Jan 11;151(1):31.
doi: 10.1038/s41419-023-06415-6.
PMID: 38212315 Free PMC article. 
Effects of High-intensity, Eccentric-only Muscle Actions on Serum Biomarkers of Collagen Degradation and Synthesis
Neltner TJ, Sahoo PK, Smith RW, Anders JP, Arnett JE, Ortega DG, Schmidt RJ, Johnson GO, Natarajan SK, Housh TJ. 
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 37(9):p: 1729-1737, September 2023
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000004457

Something smells fishy: How lipid mediators impact neonatal development and the meternal-fetal interface
Thompson M, Ulu A, Yuil-Valdes AG, Mukherjee M, Thoene M, VanOrmer M, Slotkowski R, Lyden E, Anderson-Berry A, Hanson CK, Nordgren TM, Natarajan SK*. 
Biomedicines 2023; 10;11(1):171.
doi: 10.3390/biomedicines11010171
PMID: 36672679

Novel Therapeutic Nutrients Molecules That Protect Against Zika Virus Infection with a Special Note on Palmitoleate
Muthuraj PG, Krishnamoorthy C, Anderson-Berry A, Hanson C, Natarajan SK.
Nutrients. 2022 Dec 27;15(1):124
doi: 10.3390/nu15010124
PMID: 36615782 Free PMC Article. Review.

Effects of 8 Weeks of Shilajit Supplementation on Serum Pro-c1α1, a Biomarker of Type 1 Collagen Synthesis: A Randomized Control Trial
Neltner TJ, Sahoo PK, Smith RW, Anders JPV, Arnett JE, Schmidt RJ, Johnson GO, Natarajan SK, Housh TJ.
J Diet Suppl. 2022 Dec 22:1-12.
doi: 10.1080/19390211.2022.2157522.
PMID: 36546868

Arsenic Toxicity on Metabolism and Autophagy in Adipose and Muscle Tissues 
Seung-Hyun Ro, Jiyoung Bae, Yura Jang, Jacob F. Myers, Soonkyu Chung, Jiujiu Yu, Sathish Kumar Natarajan, Rodrigo Franco, Hyun-Seob Song
Antioxidants 2022; 11(4):689.
doi: 10.3390/antiox11040689
PMID: 35453374. Review

Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acid-Derived Oxylipins from the Lipoxygenase Pathway in Maternal and Umbilical Cord Plasma at Delivery and their Relationship with Infant Growth
Thompson M, Ulu A, Yuil-Valdes AG, Mukherjee M, Thoene M, Van Ormer M, Slotkowski R, Lyden E, Anderson Berry A, Hanson CK, Nordgren TM, Natarajan SK.
Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jan 9;23(2):708.
doi: 10.3390/ijms23020708
PMID: 35054892 Free PMC article.

Trophoblast Changes in Maternal Obesity
Sahoo PK, Natarajan SK.
Diabesity. 2022 (Review) 8 (1); 19-22

Palmitoleate Protects against Zika virus-induced Placental Trophoblast Apoptosis
Muthuraj PG, Pattnaik A, Sahoo PK, Islam MT, Pattnaik AK, Byrareddy SN, Hanson C, Anderson Berry A, Kachman SD, Natarajan SK
Biomedicines. 2021 Jun 4;9(6).
doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9060643
PMID: 34200091
PMCID: PMC8226770

Saturated free fatty acids induce placental trophoblast lipoapoptosis
Natarajan SK, Bruett T, Muthuraj PG, Sahoo PK, Power J, Mott JL, Hanson C, Anderson-Berry A. 
journals.plos.org. 2021 Apr 22;16(4):e0249907. eCollection 2021.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0249907
PMID: 33886600
PMCID: PMC8062006

Zika virus infection induces endoplasmic reticulum stress and apoptosis in placental trophoblasts
Muthuraj PG, Sahoo PK, Kraus M, Bruett T, Annamalai AS, Pattnaik A, Pattnaik AK, Byrareddy SN, Natarajan SK
Cell Death Discov. 2021 Jan 26;7(1):24.
doi: 10.1038/s41420-020-00379-8
PMID: 33500388
PMCID: PMC7838309

Omega-3 Fatty Acid-Derived Resolvin D2 Regulates Human Placental Vascular Smooth Muscle and Extravillous Trophoblast Activities
Ulu A, Sahoo PK, Yuil-Valdes AG, Mukherjee M, Van Ormer M, Muthuraj PG, Thompson M, Anderson Berry A, Hanson CK, Natarajan SK, Nordgren TM. 
Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 7;20(18):4402.
doi: 10.3390/ijms20184402
PMID: 31500240
PMCID: PMC6770915
Role of 3-Hydroxy Fatty Acid-Induced Hepatic Lipotoxicity in Acute Fatty Liver of Pregnancy
Natarajan SK, Ibdah JA. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan 22;19(1):322.
doi: 10.3390/ijms19010322
PMID: 29361796
PMCID: PMC5796265
FoxO3 increases miR-34a to cause palmitate-induced cholangiocyte lipoapoptosis
Natarajan SK, Stringham BA, Mohr AM, Wehrkamp CJ, Lu S, Phillippi MA, Harrison-Findik D, Mott JL. 
J Lipid Res. 2017 May;58(5):866-875. Epub 2017 Mar 1.
doi: 10.1194/jlr.M071357
PMID: 28250026
PMCID: PMC5408604