Genetic Risk Factors for Some Diseases Tied to Uric Acid

We once thought of circulating uric acid levels as mainly a biomarker of kidney disease (or a very rich diet), but research over the past decade suggests that higher than normal levels of uric acid can, in fact, be a cause of some cardiovascular or chronic kidney diseases. Uric acid levels are strongly influenced by a person’s genetics and diet, so understanding genetic risk factors will help to identify who needs to be extra careful about what he or she eats. This is the focus of the Voruganti laboratory at the NRI, which applies nutrigenetics research to ask the question of how our genetic differences affect our uric acid metabolism.

What they did: The latest research, reported by Chittoor et al. (2017), looked at how genetic variation in the children of the Viva La Familia study (which looks at genetic and environmental contributions to childhood obesity in a group of more than 1,000 Hispanic children) was associated with urinary clearance of uric acid. Clearance is an important part of how the body maintains appropriate circulating levels of uric acid. They found a series of genetic variations in the ZNF446 gene that were associated with differences in uric acid clearance. Surprisingly, the ZNF446 protein is not itself involved in uric acid handling; rather, ZNF446 falls into a group of proteins known as transcription factors. These proteins regulate the expression of other genes, “and may be involved in transcription of specific uric acid transporters”, Geetha Chittoor added. Currently, we do not know which of the genes regulated by ZNF446 is responsible for the observed difference in uric acid clearance, but this question will be addressed in future research.

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Appetite For Life

Feed Your Brain: The Importance of Nutrition on Cognitive Aging : Featuring Grant Canipe, Psychology Doctoral Student

Cooking for Nourishment

Healthy aging is unfortunately often accompanied by uninvited changes in our cognitive function. Grant Canipe, a doctoral student in the NRI’s Cheatham Nutrition & Cognition Lab, will explore some of the factors that contribute to brain-related changes as we age. Attendees of all ages will learn about the key mechanisms that make our brains “work” and how some factors, such as how our bodies process nutrients, affect cognitive function. This event is Tuesday, April 18 at 6 PM at Restuarant 46 in Kannapolis, NC.

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NRI Scientist Claims Circle Award from NCDA

NRI Research Professor Martin Kohlmeier, M.D., Ph.D., has been given the Circle Award by the North Carolina Dietetic Association. This award is presented annually to an individual or group outside the profession of dietetics who demonstrates outstanding interest, support, and contribution to the profession of dietetics. In order to be considered for this award, one must have made significant contributions to human welfare, demonstrated good will through notable service in furthering the advancement of the profession of dietetics, promoted nutrition in a manner supported by scientific evidence and sound nutritional facts, and displayed keen interest in improving nutrition for people of all ages. Congratulations, Dr. Kohlmeier, on this achievement!

At the NRI, Dr. Kohlmeier focuses on laboratory diagnostics and nutritional genetics. With more than 30 years of experience in nutrition research, he has developed novel biochemical methods for the assessment of dietary intake and nutrient adequacy. His research explores how to help individuals safely navigate daily food choices and how those choices might affect cancer risk. Dedicated to helping the public benefit from recent advancements in genetics and nutrition, Dr. Kohlmeier uses this new technology to read the body’s DNA blueprint down to very fine details. His goal is to translate this data into practical directions for people’s health.

Neuroscience Research at the NRI

When people hear the word “nutrition,” they often think of eating healthy fruits and vegetables, counting calories, and constant exercise. At the Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) and across the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis, NC, these are frequent topics of scientific inquiry. But to scientists, “nutrition” is a word with a subtly different definition, one that is expansive, just like the variety of research we do at the NRI. One of our core focuses of research is determining the amounts of nutrients and other substances in food that promote a healthy brain at all stages of the lifespan. Recently we celebrated Brain Awareness Week—a nationwide action to promote awareness about the importance of brain health organized by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Society for Neuroscience—by highlighting the public and personal benefits of NRI brain research.

The NRI is lucky to have several scientists devoted to neuroscience research, and three of them showcased their research in a recent seminar on the NCRC. In honor of Brain Awareness Week, we decided to catch up with these scientists to learn a little bit about their research and why they do what they do.

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