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

Anthony Delaney, Research Technologist II
Kathryn Hammer
Research: Analysis of Mitochondrial Dysfunction in HADHA-mutant cardiomyocytes.
Chandan Krishnamoorthy
Research: Zika virus induces apoptosis and ER stress in neuronal cells. 

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.

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. 

Ellie Rautio

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

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-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

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

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