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


Lab Members

Sathish Kumar Natarajan, Assistant Professor

Prakash Kumar Sahoo
Research: Elucidating the lipotoxicity of 3-hydroxy fatty acids in placental trophoblast and hepatocytes.

Prakash received two 2018 Best Poster Awards for his research on 3-hydroxy fatty acids induced placental trophoblast necroptosis. One at the Gilbert Greenwald Symposium held at Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, KS and the second at the NPOD Symposium.

Ellie Rautio
Research: Working on the epidemiological analysis of dietary monounsaturated fatty acids against metabolic syndrome risk.

Mwiza Aline Uwashimimana
Research: Establishing the role of cellular stress pathway in response to accumulation of 3-hydroxy fatty acids in placental trophoblasts.
Aline has received the ARD undergraduate scholarship award from IANR.

Former Lab Members

Taylor Bruett
Undergraduate Student Researcher
Successfully obtained funding from UCARE for her work in the Natarajan Lab
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 

Jenna Whitmore

Undergraduate Student Researcher from Nebraska Wesleyan. 

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

 In the News

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

Blog tech roundup, April-23-2021

 Selected Publications


Natarajan Lab publications


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.
PubMed PMID: 34200091; PubMed Central 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. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0249907. eCollection 2021.
PMID: 33886600

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


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


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


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. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M071357. Epub 2017 Mar 1.
PMID: 28250026