Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases
8th Annual Retreat - April 18, 2016
"Inflammation, Signaling, and Metabolic Disease"

The Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases (NPOD) hosted this year’s annual retreat on April 18, 2016 at the Sheldon Museum of Art on the UNL campus.  It was the 8th 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 "Inflammation, Signaling, and Metabolic Disease" and featured four nationally recognized experts:  Dr. Harmeet Malhi from the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Ryan O'Connell from the University of Utah, Dr. Ennio Tasciotti from Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute, and Dr. Mélanie Dieudé from the Canadian National Transplant Research Program.   

 The Speakers

Speakers left to right: Dieudé, Malhi, NPOD Director Janos Zempleni, O'Connell, Tasciotti

Dr. Mélanie Dieudé, Canadian National Transplant Research Program
“The vesicular legacy of dying cells: importance in inflammation, autoimmunity and rejection.”
 Dr. Mélanie Dieudé is an immunologist and  researcher at the CHUM research centre, and is the Scientific Program Coordinator of the Canadian National Transplant Research Program (CNTRP). After obtaining a Masters in Molecular biology in 1999  from the University of Montreal, she developed a strong interest  autoimmunity during her PhD studies, from which she graduated on the Dean’s Honor List at the University of Montreal in 2004. She then pursued her academic endeavors at McGill University during a postdoctoral fellowship, describing for the first time a natural ligand for the MHC-Like molecule CD1d.  Having published numerous highly ranked articles, andwon various prestigeous research awards, Dr. Dieudé became researcher at the CRCHUM in 2009 and developed, in close collaboration with Dr.  Marie-Josée Hébert, a research program focusing on the autoimmune component of solid organ rejection triggered by vascular injury. Dr Dieudé’s work builds on cellular and molecular biology approaches in association with animal models of rejection and proteomics strategies and validation in patients samples, to characterize novel biomarkers and effectors of rejection and vascular remodeling. Very recently, Dr. Dieudé’s work led to the characterization of new tissue injury derived extracellular vesicles constituting novel autoimmune mediators of rejection (Science Translational Medicine, 2015). Dr. Dieudé is now a well-established young leader in transplantation research as demonstrated by her role as Coordinator of the Canadian National Transplant Research Program.
Dr. Harmeet Malhi, Mayo Clinic
“ER Stress Induces the Release of Proinflammatory Extracellular Vesicles During Liver Lipotoxicity”
 Through Dr. Harmeet Malhi's early research training (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), her clinical investigator residency and fellowship training (Mayo Clinic, Rochester), post-doctoral training (University of Michigan)  and her K08-award funded research, she has acquired a broad background in liver regeneration and liver injury (Mentor: Dr. Sanjeev Gupta, expertise in hepatocyte transplantation and regeneration) in addition to focused training and expertise in the cellular pathways of apoptosis (Mentor: Dr. Gregory J. Gores, expertise in hepatocyte apoptosis and liver injury) and the cell biology of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress signaling (Mentor: Dr. Randal J. Kaufman,  internationally recognized expert in ER stress).  The current research proposal on lipid mediators of lipotoxic extracellular vesicles is a new and unique direction of research.  It is a logical extension of her earlier work in lipotoxic ER stress which has been supported by a K08 award, now expanded to the novel direction of EVs.  Though new to the field of EVs, her initial manuscript describing the role of the ER stress sensor IRE1α in the generation of lipotoxic EVs by hepatocytes was recently published in the well regarded Journal of Lipid Research. 
Dr. Ryan O’Connell, University of Utah
“MicroRNAs and Chronic Inflammation”
 Dr. Ryan O’Connell is  Assistant Professor at the University of Utah in the Department of Pathology. His postdoctoral studies were performed in David Baltimore’s laboratory at the California Institute of Technology where he began working in the area of microRNAs following his graduate training in Immunology at UCLA (mentored by Genhong Cheng). His research has since been focused on studying the roles of microRNAs in regulating both physiological and pathological hematopoietic development in mammals, with a focus on inflammation and cancer. His work, which has led to the publication of many high impact primary research manuscripts and several review articles on this topic, and has contributed significantly to our current understanding of the importance of microRNAs during the development, function and transformation of immune cells. Since moving to the University of Utah in August of 2011, he has established his own independent laboratory in the Division of Microbiology and Immunology (within the Department of Pathology). His lab continues to make important discoveries in this field, and is currently funded by multiple external grants, including an NIH New Innovator award.
Dr. Ennio Tasciotti, Houston Methodist Research Institute
“Targeting inflammation and tuning the immune response using biomimetic nanomaterials”
After receiving M.Sc. degrees in Biological Sciences and Molecular Biology in 2000 and his Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine in 2005 from the internationally acclaimed Scuola Normale Superioire in Pisa, Italy, Dr. Ennio Tasciotti moved to the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas and laid the groundwork for two nanotechnology platforms: protein nanochips for early disease detection and multistage nanoporous silicon particles for targeted therapeutic delivery (selected as one of the “Five big ideas for nanotechnology” by Nature Medicine in 2008). While working in the Department of Nanomedicine at University of Texas Medical School, he conceived and coordinated the DARPA-funded research project “BioNanoScaffold for post-traumatic osteo-regeneration” to develop multifunctional biomaterials that provide immediate mechanical stabilization to bone fractures and promote bone tissue regeneration. In 2010, he joined Houston Methodist Research Institute, where he serves as Co-Chair of the Department of Nanomedicine, Director of the Center for Biomimetic Medicine, and Director of the Surgical Advanced Technology Laboratory. Dr. Tasciotti directs a large research operation, with 30 research staff and trainees involved in developing innovative nanotechnology and drug delivery platforms, as well as regenerative medicine biomaterials. He published more than 80 peer reviewed research papers, he is an inventor on 6 U.S. patents, serves as reviewer for more than 30 scientific journals, he regularly participates in DoD and NIH study sections and has been invited to speak at more than 100 international meetings.

Poster Competition and Reception

The winners!

Winners of the student/postdoctoral poster competition: Sonal Sukreet (Nutrition and Health Sciences), Ryan Grove (Biochemistry), Xinqi Zhou (Chemistry), pictured with NPOD Director Dr. Janos Zempleni.

The afternoon included the NPOD 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 22 research posters that represented 11 different laboratories and multiple departments at UNL.  Posters were judged by four 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. Congratulations and thank you to all who participated! 

Retreat Funding

Funding for this retreat has been provided by generous support through the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P20GM104320.