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.
|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.
|Shilei Zhu, Laboratory Manager
Shilei earned a Ph.D. degree in Medicinal Chemistry from Ocean University of China and conducted and completed his Ph.D. research at Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is a part-time lab manager and is primary responsibilities include lab maintenance and compliance with federal, state and local regulations.
|Ting Chen, Visiting Scholar
Ting earned a Ph.D. in Animal Nutrition and Feed Science from the South China Agricultural University, China.
She studies non-coding RNAs in human milk exosomes and the effects of maternal loss of exosome and microRNA biogenesis on the development of juvenile mice.
|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 and 2020.
|Afsana Khanam, PhD Student email@example.com
Afsana earned a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Dhaka. She investigates the uptake and lysosomal degradation of milk exosomes by macrophages.
Afsana was named a finalist for the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Abstract Recognition Award Program, a program of the American Society for Nutrition which recognizes the highest quality research presented by students and young investigators at NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE. More than 800 abstracts were submitted by students and postdoctoral fellows and the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Abstract Recognition Award Program aims to recognize the top 15% highest scoring abstracts. Abstracts were rated by more than 450 nutrition scientists.
|Leila Setayesh, PhD Student firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
|Mariah McCashland, M.S. Student email@example.comMariah earned a B.S. in Neurobiology from the University of California Los Angeles. She investigates the effects of bovine milk exosomes on the metabolomics and transcriptomics of bacteria from murine ceca in cultures defined by their content of bovine milk exosomes. She also studies the effects of bovine milk exosomes on bacterial communities in fecal cultures from adult milk drinkers and milk avoiders.|
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: Clinical Research Coordinator at Children's Health in Dallas
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: Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California-San Diego, Department of Anesthesiology (Neuroscience Program)
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)
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
In the News
Milk Findings May Help Infants Worldwide (June 2020)
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