The UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) held its first short course in Nutrigenetics, Nutrigenomics and Precision Nutrition, May 23 – 26. This workshop-style educational course featured 16 expert-led presentations on an array of topics including “Nutrition and Epigenetics” and “MicroRNA and Metabolic Profiling.” State-of-the-art practice is an important component of the short course. In hands-on sessions participants learned to analyze and interpret genetic data using PLINK, Harvard’s open-source, whole-genome association analysis software toolset.

This non-credit short course is designed for graduate students, health professionals and nutrition scientists from academia and industry. In its inaugural year the workshop was fully subscribed with 96 participants from 6 countries and 29 states. Among the presenters were professors of Nutrition, Psychology and Genetics at UNC-Chapel Hill and principal investigators at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute.

“This workshop is an excellent introduction to the concepts of nutrigenetics, nutrigenomics, epigenetics and metabolomics,” says Dr. Steven H. Zeisel, Institute Director. “We know that nutrition has the most important life-long behavioral impact on human heath, but we are only now beginning to understand human variability in requirements and responses to diet. Understanding these diet-genome interactions is critical if we are going to make progress towards effective prevention and treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.”

The short course is a low-cost opportunity to learn the basics of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics in an intensive workshop setting. Full registration ranged from $400 to $675. Because of the importance of training future scientists in this field, the NRI offered fee scholarships to more than one-third of course registrants.

Participants were housed at UNC Charlotte and shuttled daily to the nearby North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, site of the Nutrition Research Institute. Sessions took place in meeting facilities at the newly constructed Kannapolis City Hall, also located on the campus. Included in the registration fee were accommodations, all meals, and an afternoon excursion to the 1100-acre U.S. National Whitewater Center, where participants can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, and mountain biking.