1st Annual Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases Fall Symposium
September 28, 2015, Sheldon Museum of Art – 12th and R Street
8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

With Special Scientific Presentations Given by the NPOD’s External Advisory Committee Members

The Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases (NPOD) hosted the 1st Annual Fall Symposium on Monday, September 28, 2015.  The symposium is always a free, day-long event for faculty, postdocs, students, staff, industry partners, and other interested parties offering an opportunity to explore relevant topics and to network with fellow researchers in academia and industry.   The speakers this year were the internationally recognized experts who serve as the Center’s External Advisory Committee:  Dr. Melinda Beck, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Dr. Bert Boyer, University of Alaska Fairbanks; Dr. Konstantin Gus Kousoulas, Louisiana State University; and Dr. Catharine Ross, Pennsylvania State University.  Read more about our speakers below.

Funding for this retreat was provided by grant support through the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM104320. 


The Speakers. . .

Dr. Melinda Beck
Professor and Associate Chair
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Talk Title: "The Weight of Obesity on the Response to Influenza Infection and Vaccination"

Dr. Beck’s interests focus on research exploration of the relationship between host nutrition and immune function and response to infectious disease. Research in the laboratory has demonstrated that host deficiencies in antioxidant nutrients lead to viral mutations which result in viruses becoming pathogenic. This was the first description of a specific host nutritional deficiency driving changes in a viral genome permitting an avirulent virus to acquire virulence. Dr. Beck’s laboratory research suggests that host nutritional status can be a driving force for the emergence of infectious diseases. In addition, Dr. Beck is studying the effects of obesity on the immune response. Her research indicates that diet-induced obese animals have a much higher mortality rate from influenza infection than lean animals. In translating the animal model to humans, her laboratory has found that following influenza vaccination, obese individuals are not able to sustain anti-flu antibodies to the same level as healthy weight individuals. Of particular note, T cells from obese and overweight individuals have a poor response to the pH1N1 strain of influenza, suggesting that obese and overweight individuals would be less able to respond to an influenza infection. The lab is currently focusing on the mechanisms for the impact of weight status on the poor vaccine response and the poor T cell response in obese and overweight individuals.

Website: http://sph.unc.edu/profiles/melinda-beck/

 Dr. Bert Boyer
Director, Center for Alaska Native Health Research
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Talk Title: "Engaging Rural Alaska Native Community Members in Obesity-Related Genomics Research"

Dr. Boyer has been actively involved (as Co-I) in all aspects of the COBRE-funded Center for Alaska Native Health Research (CANHR), since the planning phases in the late 1990s and its inception in 2001. In 2010, he became CANHR Director and PI of the COBRE grant that has been renewed for another five years under his leadership. CANHR investigations span the translational cycle (T0-T4) with a strong emphasis on T0-community engagement in research. Dr. Boyer's own research currently investigates genetic, nutritional, and environmental risk factors that may contribute to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in Yup’ik people.  He was the PI on an NIH R01 grant (DK74842) that investigated gene by environment (nutrient and physical activity) interactions related to obesity in Yup’ik people, and is now collecting longitudinal health screening data as a follow-up study to the original CANHR grant. He was also PI on another NIH R01 grant (HG005221) investigating the ethical dissemination of genetic research results. Currently he is engaging community members as co-researchers in the design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation stages of research and is moving toward community driven health education and behavioral intervention research to address the research priorities, and reduce health disparities of Alaska Native people. Dr. Boyer's experience with NIH grants that involve a number of different types of resources over the past 20 years both as a PI and Co-Investigator, has given his the experience necessary to work collaboratively in a trusting partnership with Alaska Native people and represent the University of Alaska Fairbanks regarding NIH and human health research.

Website: http://faculty.iab.uaf.edu/bert_boyer


Dr. K. Gus Kousoulas
Associate Vice Chancellor
Office of Research & Economic Development
Louisiana State University

Talk Title: "Engineering Herpes Simplex Viruses for Vectored Vaccines and Oncolytic Virotherapy "

Dr. Konstantin Gus Kousoulas received his BS in Physics from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ, and his MS and PhD degrees from Pennsylvania State University in Biophysics and Molecular Cell Biology, respectively. He received postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago working in Dr. Bernard Roizman’s laboratory and at the University of California at San Francisco with Dr. Lenore Pereira, where later he was promoted to Research Assistant Professor. He joined Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA in 1988 and became full professor in 1994. He is currently serving as Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development overseeing all LSU STEM related areas. He holds the position of Professor of Virology and Biotechnology at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine with adjunct appointments at the Department of Biological Sciences, College of Basic Sciences at LSU Baton Rouge, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, and the LSU Health Sciences Center’s Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center in New Orleans. He is also an affiliate member of the Tulane National Primate Research Center located in Covington, LA.  Dr. Kousoulas has been independently funded by NIH with R01 and other grants since 1990 working on the molecular biology of herpes simplex virus. He is the Principal Investigator of the LSU-Tulane Center for Experimental Infectious Diseases, which is funded by the NIH:NIGMS:COBRE mechanism.  Dr. Kousoulas’s research interests are focused on the molecular biology of human herpes viruses, herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) that causes facial and genital infections and Kaposi’s Sarcoma Associated Herpesvirus (KSHV) that causes Kaposi’s cancer in humans. He has also worked on the molecular biology of human and animal coronaviruses. Dr. Kousoulas has extensively utilized viral vectors for vaccine development and cancer treatment. He has constructed and patented herpes simplex viruses that can selectively replicate in human breast cancer cells providing a unique approach to treat human breast cancer. Other research interests include structure and function of proteins and glycoproteins, the use of virus-like particles for drug delivery, bioinformatics, and the development of new drugs to combat infectious diseases. Teaching expertise and research interests are in the areas of molecular and cellular biology, virology, genetics, cancer biology and immunology and nanomedicine.

Website: http://go.unl.edu/z668


Dr. Catharine Ross
Professor of Nutrition, Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair
Nutritional Sciences
Pennsylvania State University

Talk Title: "Lipids Emulsions in the Prevention of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease"

Nutritional biochemist A. Catharine Ross, elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003, has spent over 30 years teasing apart the metabolic pathways directing the activities of this micronutrient and the part it plays in the immune response. In her Inaugural Article in this issue of PNAS (1), Ross and colleague Qiuyan Chen explore how retinoic acid, the active metabolite of vitamin A, regulates B cell population dynamics and antibody gene expression.

Ross's research career is particularly unique in that she has investigated biochemical questions about vitamin A within the context of diet and nutrition. Ross's broad appreciation for varying aspects of nutritional science has provided insight and background for her current role as an editor of the Journal of Nutrition (from 2004 to present) and during her two terms as a member of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies' Institute of Medicine (1997-2004). This body is charged with specifying the recommended daily dietary allowances, which serve as a nutritional model for many countries.

Website: http://go.unl.edu/st6r



Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Poster Competition . . .


The Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Poster Competition and reception was held following the speakers giving young researchers an opportunity to present their work as well as exchange ideas and visit with the speakers.  The competition this year included 15 research posters that represented 12 different laboratories and multiple departments at UNL.  Posters were judged by three NPOD 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 Winners are . . .

 Pictured Left to Right, Meshail Okla, Vaishaali Natarajan, Jiang Shu, and NPOD Director, Dr. Janos Zempleni

Vaishaali Natarajan, UNL Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Research Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Srivatsan Kidambi
Poster title:  Substrate Elasticity Regulates Primary Hepatocyte Functions


Meshail Okla, UNL Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences
Research Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Soonkyu Chung
Poster Title:  Activation of Toll-like Receptor (TLR) 4 Attenuates Adaptive Thermogenesis via Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress


Jiang Shu, UNL Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Research Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Juan Cui
Poster Title:  MicroRNA cooperative regulation in Obesity and Cancers


Mark your calenar and join us September 21, 2016 for the 2nd Annual
Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases Fall Symposium.