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Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard

Nutrition-related disease states such as diabetes and obesity may be treatable eventually by the use of therapies at the cellular and molecular levels. The Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard seeks to establish a research environment which encourages the approach to defining common clinical nutrition research problems using the most sophisticated technology and scientific knowledge available.

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Adipose Tissue-Derived miRNAs Regulate Gene Expression in Other Tissues

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that negatively regulate translation and thereby contribute to the regulation of metabolic processes. Dr. Kahn and others recently demonstrated in Nature that adipose tissue is an important source of circulating miRNAs. Mice with an adipose-tissue-specific knockout of the miRNA processing enzyme Dicer (ADicerKO) demonstrated substantial reductions in levels of circulating miRNAs, and fat transplant from wild type animals largely restored miRNA levels.

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Recent Work by NORC-H Investigators

Metformin is best known as first line treatment for type 2 diabetes. In recent years it has become clear that metformin has anti-cancer properties and prolongs lifespan, but the mechanism of these effects remains elusive. NORC-H investigator Dr. Alexander Soukas and colleagues determined that metformin kills human cancer cells and prolongs lifespan in the roundworm C. elegans by a common mechanism involving the nuclear pore complex and a gene of unknown function ACAD10. Wu L et al., Cell, December, 2016).

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Recent Work by NORC-H Investigators

The development of the intestinal microbiome in premature infants affects gut maturity and may mediate the risk for necrotizing enterocolitis. Gregory and colleagues show that preterm infants who receive expressed breast milk have greater initial bacterial diversity and more gradual acquisition of diversity compared to those who receive formula. Supplementation with pasteurized donor human milk partially promoted a microbiome similar to that of breast-milk fed infants. (Gregory KE, Samuel BS, Houghteling P et al., Microbiome, December, 2016.)

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Recent Work by NORC-H Investigators

Maternal HIV treatment is associated with a decreased risk of diarrhea in their children. Using data from a large cohort in Tanzania, Dr. Chris Duggan and colleagues demonstrated that treating mothers with antiretroviral therapy (ART) was associated with a 21% reduction in the risk of diarrheal illness in their children during the first two years of life. As diarrhea is a major cause of morbidity and death in early childhood, this study provides further evidence supporting the health benefits of providing ART to all pregnant mothers worldwide. (Sztam KA, Liu E, Kupka R et al., Journal of Pediatrics, August, 2016.)

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In the News

2014 Pilot & Feasibility Project awardee Dr. Elaine Yu and 2015 awardee Dr. Elizabeth Hohmann are leading a clinical trial that will study the impact of gut bacteria on weight.

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Recent Work by NORC-H Investigators

Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) rises after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), but the importance of GLP-1 in mediating the effects of RYGB is unclear. Dr. Kaplan and colleagues used the GLP-1 receptor antagonist exendin, delivered either centrally or peripherally in mice, to demonstrate that Central GLP-1 receptor antagonism did not disrupt any of the metabolic improvements seen after surgery. Peripheral antagonism partially reversed the improvement in glucose tolerance but did not affect changes in body weight. These data show a modest effect of peripheral GLP-1 receptor signaling in mediating improvements in glucose after RYGB, and suggest that central GLP-1 signaling is not required for the effects of RYGB. (Carmody JS, Munoz R, Yin H, Kaplan LM. American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, May, 2016.)

 

Upcoming Events!

Check out our Events page for more information about the following upcoming events of the NORCH!

*6/17: Blackburn Course in Obesity Medicine
*7/17: 18th Annual Symposium: Surgical Treatment of Obesity

Please Cite the Grant!

Our work as a Center is measured in part by the contributions we make to published science. Please cite the National Institutes of Health Grant P30 DK040561 in all publications that results from the use of NORC-H services or resources.

Contact Information

Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital,
55 Fruit Street,
5LON207
Boston, MA 02114
phone 617-724-9109
email: HarvardNORC@mgh.harvard.edu