Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68583-0806, USA
Our laboratory is interested in natural nanoparticles (“exosomes”, diameter ~100 nanometers) that play an important role in cell-to-cell communication and the regulation of metabolism. Communication is achieved by the exosome-dependent transfer of regulatory molecules such as microRNAs from one cell to another. For example, exosomes may travel from the adipose tissues to the liver and regulate genes therein. Traditionally, exosomes and their microRNA cargos were believed to originate exclusively in endogenous synthesis.
We have pioneered a line of discovery in exosome research by demonstrating that exosomes and microRNAs do not originate exclusively in endogenous synthesis but may also be absorbed from milk. Current focus areas in our laboratory focus on the role of exosomes in human milk in the neurological development in infants, interactions between milk exosomes and the gut microbiome and the use of milk exosomes in the delivery of drugs to brain tumors.
Janos Zempeni, Willa Cather Professor of Molecular Nutrition
Janos Zempleni earned a Ph.D. in nutrition sciences from the Justus-Liebig University in Germany and received postdoctoral training in pediatric nutrition (University of Innsbruck Medical Center, Dr. Burkhard Mangold), nutritional biochemistry (Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. Donald B. McCormick) and molecular and cell biology of biotin (Arkansas Children’s Research Institute and Medical Center, Dr. Donald M. Mock). Dr. Zempleni joined the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2001 where he rose through the ranks and now is a Willa Cather Professor of Molecular Nutrition and founding director of the NIH-funded Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases through Dietary Molecules.
|Peerzada Mumtaz, Postdoctoral Associatepmumtaz2@unl.edu
Tajamul (Taj) earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Jaipur National University, India. Taj studies the bioavailability of bacterial extracellular vesicles in mice, and factors conducive to the selection of genetic variants in gut bacteria.
He joined our group in April 2021.
|Shu Wang, Postdoctoral Associate firstname.lastname@example.org
Shu earned a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Zhejiang University, China. Shu studies the selection of genetic variants in Clostridiodes difficile and Enterococcus faecalis by bovine milk exosomes, and effects of milk exosome-defined diets on the colonization with pathogenic bacteria in mice. She also studies mechanisms of milk exosome uptake by gut bacteria.
Shu won a best poster award at NPOD's Annual Fall Symposium (September 14, 2020) and NPOD's Annual Spring Retreat (April 14, 2021).
|Javaria Munir, Postdoctoral Associate email@example.com
Javaria earned a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Soonchunhyang University in South Korea. She studies the delivery of therapeutic RNA to brain tumors by bovine milk exosomes, and the roles of maternal exosomes and microRNA biogenesis on postnatal growth and development in mice.
|Nipun Varukattu Babu, Postdoctoral Associate firstname.lastname@example.org
Nipun earned a PhD in Biotechnology from Bharathiar University, Tamil Nādu, India. Prior joining UNL, he was funded by the Li Ka Shing Foundation and served as postdoctoral fellow at Shantou University Medical College, China. During this period, he was also awarded a project by the Guangdong Government's Department of Education's Top-tier University Development Scheme. Nipun investigates the potential of milk exosomes for gene delivery to the brain in SynGAP1 deficient mouse models. He joined our team in 2022.
|John Wang, Senior Research Associate email@example.com
John earned a Ph.D. in Entomology/Integrated Pest Management from the Fujian Agricultural University, China.
He utilizes genetics protocols to engineer cells that secrete milk exosomes with enhanced delivery of RNA therapeutics to brain tumors. He also plays an important role in training new laboratory members and editing draft manuscripts.
|Anh Khoa Le, Laboratory Manager
Khoa is pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer science here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is a part-time lab manager and is primary responsibilities include lab maintenance and compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
|Alice Ngu, PhD Student firstname.lastname@example.org
Alice earned a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She utilizes genetics protocols to engineer cells that secrete milk exosomes with enhanced delivery of RNA therapeutics to brain tumors.
Alice received the John and Louise Skala Fellowship by the Agricultural Research Division, University of Nebraska-Lincoln ($5,000) in 2019, 2020, and 2021.
|Leila Setayesh, PhD Student email@example.com
Leila earned a M.S. in Nutrition Science from the Tehran University of Medical Science, Iran. She investigates the effects of storage on human milk exosomes and their miRNA cargo. She also studies the effects of human milk and formula on bacterial communities in fecal cultures from infants.
|Barbie Zaman Wahid, PhD Student firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbie earned a BSc in Microbiology from the University of Guelph, Canada. She investigates the selection of bacterial communities and genetic variants by milk exosomes in adults. She also plans to use exosomes to deliver CRISPR/Cas9 for therapeutic genome editing in the future.
Former Lab Members (Postdoctoral Fellows)
- Rocio Rodriguez-Melendez (3/1/2002 – 2/28/2005 & 2/1/2007 – 8/31/2010)
- Anna M. Oommen (1/15/2004 – 6/30/2005)
- Subhashinee “Samudra” K. Wijeratne (5/8/2006 – 3/2013)
- Gabriela Camporeale (6/1/2006 – 10/15/2006)
- Baolong Bao (9/10/2007 – 9/30/2009)
- Toshinobu Kuroishi (10/1/2008 – 04/01/2011)
- Mahendra P. Singh (6/1/2010 – 5/31/2012)
- Sridhar Malkaram (6/28/2010 – 7/14/2012)
- Yong Li (7/1/2010 – 8/30/2012)
- Zhongji Han (10/1/2011 – 9/30/2013)
- Wenlei Zhuo (2/1/2012 – 4/30/2012)
- Sonia Manca (7/8/2015 – 12/31/2017)
- Deborah Fratantonio (8/3/2016 – 7/31/2018)
- Bijaya Upadhyaya (8/22/2016 – 7/15/2019)
- Wei “Vivien” Zhao (4/16/2018 – 7/31/2020)
Former Lab Members (Doctoral Students)
Nagarama Kothapalli (3/2003 - 5/2006)
Current position: Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma
Gabriela Camporeale (8/2003 - 5/2006)
Current position: Research Scientist at CONICET in Argentina
Yap Ching Chew (5/2005 - 8/2008)
Current position: Director of Epigenetics Technologies at Zymo Research, Inc. in Irvine, CA.
Yousef Hassan (7/2005 - 8/2009)
Current position: Staff Scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Department: Guelph Food Research Centre
Jing Xue (8/16/09 – 8/15/2013)
Current position: Data Scientist with Goodyear in Akron, OH
Dandan Liu (8/16/10 – 5/7/2014)
Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.
Daniel Camara Teixeira (8/16/10 - 12/23/2014)
Current position: Professor of Practice in Nutrition and Metabolism in the Health Sciences Center, University of Fortaleza, Brazil
Scott Baier (1/1/11 - 5/15/2015)
Current position: Senior Director, Medical Strategy at Vaniam Group, Dallas, Texas
Elizabeth Cordonier (1/1/11 - 8/15/2015)
Current position: Anatomy and Physiology Instructor in the community college system in Houston, TX
Ezra Mutai (1/1/15- 8/30/19)
Current position: Postdoctoral Teaching & Research Fellow in Nutrition and Biology in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University
Mahrou Sadri (1/1/15 - 8/15/20)
Current position: Senior Scientist, Capricor Therapeutics, Inc.
Fang Zhou (8/15/15 - 12/18/2020)
Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University, Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (Ryan Flynn laboratory)
Sonal Sukreet (1/1/15 - 5/31/2021)
Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California-San Diego, Department of Neurosciences (Roberrt Rissmann laboratory)
Di Wu (8/15/15 - 5/8/2021)
Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Department of Medicine-Oncology (William Y. Kim laboratory)
Afsana Khanam (08/15/2017 - 8/14/2022)
Current position: Postdoctoral Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Department of Neurology (Norman Haughey laboratory)
Former Lab Members (Master Students)
Rachel Daberkow (2001 – 2003) - Rachel Daberkow is currently employed with a health center for patients with eating disorders in Arizona.
Gabriela Camporeale (2001 – 2003) - After completing her Master’s thesis, Gabriela Camporeale continued her studies in my laboratory and received a Ph.D. degree (see above).
Sarah Scheerger (2001 – 2003) - Sarah Scheerger is currently enrolled in the OD program.
Alice Kueh (2004 - 2005) - Alice Kueh is currently a Research Associate with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Yap Ching Chew (2004 - 2005) - After completing her Master’s thesis, Yap Ching Chew continued her studies in my laboratory and received a Ph.D. degree (see above).
Karoline Manthey (now Baldus) (2003 – 2005) - After completing her PhD at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, she is now a Lecturer at Coastal Carolina University.
Keyna Kobza (6/05 – 5/07) - Keyna practices medicine in the Seattle, WA area.
Erin Smith (6/05 – 5/07) - Erin is currently the Supervisor of the Food Analysis Laboratory at Midwest Labs (Omaha, NE).
Valerie Pestinger (now Somani) (01/08 – 12/09) - Valerie obtained her PhD degree in Nottingham (UK). After working as a Biomarker Validation Scientist at the University of Birmingham (UK), she is now a Scientist at Bioglobe in Hamburg.
Gaganpreet Kaur Mall (01/08 – 12/09) - unknown
Luisa Rios Avila (8/1/08 – 8/13/10) - Luisa is Staff Scientist in the Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH).
Dipika Singh (1/5/09 – 12/23/10) Dr. Angela Pannier (co-adviser) - Dipika for her M.S. studies. Dipika is employed as a Technician at the University of Nebraska for Medical Sciences.
Shingo Esaki (8/16/09 – 8/15/11) - unknown.
Wei Kay Eng (8/16/10 – 8/15/12) - Wei Kay is working as a Dietitian in the Kearney area, NE.
Jie Zhou (8/16/11 – 12/20/2013) - Jie enrolled in the Ph.D. program in the Department of Human Nutrition and Food Science at The University of Florida-Gainesville.
Rio Jati Kusuma (8/16/13 – 8/15/2015) - Rio accepted a position as a Lecturer at Yogyakarta University in Indonesia.
Katherine Howard (8/16/13 – 5/15/2015) - Kat has accepted a position as Dietitian at the Yankton State Hospital, Human Services Center in Yankton, South Dakota.
Ana Aguilar Lozano (8/15/15 – 12/15/2018) - Ana is a Research Scientist with Pfizer, Inc. in Mexico City.
Amy Leiferman (8/15/16 – 4/30/18) - Amy is now an Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in the Bryan College of Health Sciences, University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Pearl Ebea (8/15/17 – 8/13/2019) - Pearl entered the Ph.D. program in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Florida-Gainesville
Mojisola Ogunnaike (8/15/2019 – 8/2021) - Moji is now at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha (working on exosomes)
Jeff Schwehm, PhD (6/1/03 - 8/31/03) - Concordia University, Seward, NE
Petra Rust, PhD (9/20/07 – 11/19/07) - University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Patricia Huebbe (6/19/2013 - 7/30/2013) - University of Kiel, Germany
Lanfang Wang (9/2016 – 8/1/2017) - Institute of Nutrition and Healthy Food, Department of Preventive Medicine, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China
Daniel Teixeira Camara (06/23/2018 - 08/03/2018) - University of Fortalzea, Brazil
Ting Chen (11/15/2021 - 11/15/2022) - South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, China
In the News
"Insights into Milk Exosomes in Nutrition and Drug Delivery" interview for Extracellular Vesicles and Circulating Nucleic Acids (August 2022)
USDA National Dairy Month Profile: Dr. Janos Zempleni (June 2022)
Milk Findings May Help Infants Worldwide (June 2020)
Nebraska research aims to boost milk as infection fighter (April 2020)
Smart cookies: Media day puts food-related experts at forefront (January 2020)
Center earns $11 million to continue obesity-prevention research (October 2019)
Mutai E, Ramer-Tait AE, Zempleni J. MicroRNAs in bovine milk exosomes are bioavailable in humans but do not elicit a robust pro-inflammatory cytokine response. BMC exRNA 2:2, 2020; DOI: 10.1186/s41544-019-0041-x
Zhou F, Paz HA, Shu J, Sadri M, Cui J, Fernando SC, Zempleni J. Dietary bovine milk exosomes elicit changes in bacterial communities in C57BL/6 mice. Am J. Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 317:G618-G624, 2019; DOI: 10.1152/ajpgi.00160.2019
Leiferman A, Shu J, Upadhyaya B, Cui J, Zempleni J. Storage of extracellular vesicles in human milk, and microRNA profiles in human milk exosomes and infant formulas. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 69:235-238, 2019; DOI: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000002363
Zempleni J, Sukreet S, Zhou F, Wu D, Mutai E. Milk-derived exosomes and metabolic regulation. Ann Rev Anim Biosci 7:245-262, 2019; DOI: 10.1146/annurev-animal-020518-115300
Manca S, Upadhyaya B, Mutai E, Desaulniers AT, Cederberg RA, White BR, Zempleni J. Milk exosomes are bioavailable and distinct microRNA cargos have unique distribution patterns. Sci Rep 8:11321, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-29780-1
Aguilar-Lozano A, Baier SR, Grove R, Shu J, Giraud D, Mercer KE, Cui J, Badger TM, Adamec J, Andres A, Zempleni J. Concentrations of purine metabolites are elevated in fluids from adults and infants and in livers from mice fed diets depleted of bovine milk exosomes and their RNA cargos. J Nutr 148:1886-1894, 2018 [Editor’s Choice]; DOI: 10.1093/jn/nxy223
Wolf T, Baier SR, Zempleni J. The intestinal transport of bovine milk exosomes is mediated by endocytosis in human colon carcinoma Caco-2 cells and rat small intestinal IEC-6 cells. J Nutr 145:2201-2206, 2015 [Teresa A. Davis, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Nutrition, has selected this article as the Editor’s Pick for Volume 145 Issue 10 of the journal. The article was featured on the journal website at http://jn.nutrition.org, and in the member newsletter.; DOI: 10.3945/jn.115.218586
Baier SR, Nguyen C, Xie F, Wood JR, Zempleni J. MicroRNAs are absorbed in biologically meaningful amounts from nutritionally relevant doses of cow’s milk and affect gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, HEK-293 kidney cell cultures, and mouse livers. J Nutr 144:1495-1500, 2014; DOI: 10.3945/jn.114.196436