Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases/Nebraska Gateway to Nutrigenomics
7TH Annual Retreat - March 13, 2015
"Translating Big Data into Human Health through MicroRNA Biology"

 The Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases (NPOD) in conjunction with the Nebraska Gateway to Nutrigenomics (NGN) hosted this year’s annual retreat on March 13 at the Sheldon Museum of Art on the UNL campus.  This was the 7th annual retreat sponsored by NGN and now NPOD.  The retreat was a free, day-long event for faculty, postdocs, students, staff, industry partners, and other interested parties to provide an opportunity to explore relevant topics and to network with fellow researchers in academia and industry.   The theme this year was "Translating Big Data into Human Health through MicroRNA Biology" and featured three nationally recognized experts:  Dr. Kai Wang from the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Dr. Ken Witwer from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Dr. Beiyan Zhou from Texas A&M University.  The retreat was co-hosted this year by Dr. Janos Zempleni, NPOD Director, and Dr. Juan Cui, Computer Science and Engineering, and NPOD Project Leader.
Special funding for this retreat was provided through the University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Big Ideas Seed Grants Program sponsored by the Office of Research and Economic Development, and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM104320. 

The Speakers . . .

Dr. Kai Wang

Institute for Systems Biology
 “Challenges in analyzing extracellular RNA” Kai Wang is a principal scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology, where he began in 2007. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry and biophysics from Oregon State University. He began his research career at Caltech as a research fellow in the Division of Biology in 1987. In 1992, he served as an acting assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biotechnology at University of Washington. He left academia in 1995 to join Darwin Molecular Corp/Celltech Group PLC as a senior scientist and project leader. In 2001, Dr. Wang co-founded PhenoGenomics serving as its president until 2010. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Toxicology (DABT). Dr. Wang's research interest at ISB is studying the function, trafficking and application of extracellular RNAs, including RNAs of both endogenous and exogenous origins.
Dr. Kenneth Witwer
Johns Hopkins University
“Uptake of dietary small RNA and the stoichiometry of post-transcriptional regulation” Witwer is an assistant professor of Molecular and Comparative Pathobiology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Trained at Penn State and Johns Hopkins, he researches microRNAs and other RNAs in tissue, biological fluids, and extracellular vesicles. Witwer published the first studies of plasma miRNAs in lentivirus-associated central nervous system disease and of miRNAs in elite suppression of HIV-1. Interested in the utility of extracellular RNAs not just as biomarkers, but also as therapies, he has published on the direct and indirect effects of diet on endogenous and exogenous RNA in biofluids. In 2014, Witwer served on a special advisory panel to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the topic of RNA interference and ingested RNA, and has also addressed a USDA seminar and a European Food Safety Authority workshop. Witwer is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society of Extracellular Vesicles and chairs the local organizing committee for the society's 2015 meeting.
Dr. Beiyan Zhou
Texas A&M University
“MicroRNA regulated immune cell function in obese adipose tissue”
 Dr. Zhou’s research program focuses on understanding the biochemical mechanisms underlying non-coding RNAs in regulating immune cell formation and function and how they controlling tissue responses and systemic metabolic alternation under obesity stress. With a strong background in investigating blood cell formation and immunology, she is investigating how small non-coding RNAs regulate blood stem cell maintaining and function and how their progenies, specifically, immune cells adapt to the specific tissue niche and modulating tissue homeostasis.  She reported the first microRNA, miR-223, in controlling macrophage polarized activation that plays a central role in the pathogenesis of obesity associated inflammation, type 2 diabetes and various cardiovascular diseases. With achievements in this field, she has been selected for a Junior Faculty Award from American Diabetes Association in 2013. Dr. Zhou has also been invited to present at various occasions, including the Experimental Biology 2015 President Symposium Series in Boston.
Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Poster Competition . . .

The afternoon included the NPOD/NGN Annual Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Poster Competition and reception giving young researchers an opportunity to present their work as well as exchange ideas and visit with the speakers.  The competition this year included 19 research posters that represented 10 different laboratories and multiple departments at UNL.  Posters were judged by three NGN faculty investigators.  Judging criteria included the overall presentation of the research, content, oral explanation, and scientific merit.  The top three posters were selected and the winners received a framed “Research Award” certificate along with a $150 cash prize.
And the Poster Competition Winners . . .

 Left to Right:  Joseph Roberts, Amy Desaulniers, Tovah Wolf, and Dr. Juan Cui, Poster Competition Organizer

Amy T. Desaulniers, Graduate Student

UNL Department of Animal Science
Research Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Brett White
Poster title:  “Production of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone II receptor knockdown swine line”
Joseph L. Roberts, Graduate Student
UNL Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences
Researc Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Regis Moreau
Poster Title:  “Attenuation of mTORC1-Driven Overproduction of ApoB-Containing Lipoproteins by Aromatic Fatty Acid Phenylbutyric Acid”
Tovah Wolf, Graduate Student
UNL Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences
Research Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Janos Zempleni
Poster Title:  “Transport of MicroRNA-containing, Milk-Borne Extracellular Vesicles by Human Colon Carcinoma Caco-2 Cells”