Daniel Lupu, MD, doctoral student in nutrition, has received the 2015 David Kritchevsky Graduate Student Award from the journal Nutrition Research for two articles published in the November 2015 issue of the journal.

The winning papers were part one and part two of the study, “Genetic and epigenetic transgenerational implications related to omega-3 fatty acids.”

“Dr. Lupu is a gifted physician who is completing his doctoral work in nutrition,” said Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor, director of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute and the UNC Nutrition Obesity Research Center, and Lupu’s mentor.

Zeisel noted that Lupu was being honored for his work with UNC Nutrition Research Institute faculty members Drs. Mihai Niculescu and Carol Cheatham.

“Their two papers report,” Zeisel said, “that variation in the ‘spelling’ of a gene important for making the omega-3 fatty acids needed to build baby brain can explain why some babies (about 15 percent) need formula that contains DHA for optimal brain function, while other babies do not need such an infant formula. This is an important contribution to the new field of precision, or ‘personalized,’ nutrition.”

Lupu said he believes a time will soon come when dietary recommendations, pharmacological treatments, and diagnostic tests will be replaced by personalized nutrition and precision medicine.

“These research articles are a small step toward understanding which genetic and epigenetic differences make us react and adapt differently to our environment,” Lupu said. “One of the advantages of discovering those differences is early detection of certain diseases. My current research interests gravitate toward how genetic variations in a metabolic pathway, important for generating the chemical marks that can turn genes across the genome on and off, could play an important role in the mechanisms triggering liver cancer. I hope someday this will contribute to an early diagnosis of this disease.”

Lupu said he benefited from excellent mentorship at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute.

“I am happy for the opportunity to have worked with NRI senior researchers on this project, and I am honored to receive an award commemorating Dr. Kritchevsky, a top researcher in the field of nutritional biochemistry,” he said.

Lupu will be recognized during the Nutrition Research board meeting at the American Society for Nutrition Scientific Sessions at Experimental Biology meeting, to be held April 2-6, in San Diego.