Congratulations to Erika L Garcia-Villatora for being selected as the 2017 recipient of the ASN Grand Prize for Young Minority Investigators, sponsored by DSM Nutritional Products. Erika’s presentation was entitled ‘The aryl hydrocarbon receptor is a repressor of colorectal cancer development induced by a high-fat diet in mice’.
Kristen Hicks, a PhD student under Dr. Peter Murano is a recipent of the prestigious 2017 U.S. Senator Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship. The Fellowship recognizes Kristen’s outstanding academic record and contributions in research, teaching, and mentoring. She was honored April 6th at an Awards Ceremony held at the Stark Galleries, MSC.
Congratulations Kristen Hicks and Dr. Peter Murano!
Dr. Stephen Talcott, Ph.D., Professor of Food Science at a joyful reunion with three of his former Ph.D. students at the IFT meeting in Chicago. All three are in exciting innovative positions within Food Science. From left to right: Dr. Jorge Cardona, ’10, Associate Professor, Zamorano University, Honduras, Dr. Stephen Talcott, Dr. Christopher Duncan, ’10, Process Optimization Manager. Land O’ Frost, Lansing, IN, Youngmok Kim, ’08, Senior Scientist, Product Development, Synergy Flavors, Hamilton, OH.
COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M AgriLife scientists have found a way to use novel combinations of dietary compounds to selectively delete damaged stem cells and suppress cancer-causing cell signaling.
“This research is necessitated by the fact that the number of cancer cases diagnosed annually by 2050 is likely to double as a result of current population aging,” explained Dr. Robert Chapkin, Texas A&M AgriLife Senior Faculty Fellow and Regents Professor in the department of nutrition and food science, College Station. “If we as a society hope to head off the coming storm, we must get more serious about cancer prevention. Therefore, stem cell targeted therapeutic strategies aiming to eradicate malignancies are necessary.”
Chapkin, also a Texas A&M AgriLife Research nutrition scientist, was recently recognized by the National Cancer Institute as an R35 Outstanding Investigator. His work and that of others in the Chapkin lab focuses on chronic disease prevention.
“We examine the effects of diet and gut microbe-derived bioactives on the inhibition or activation of genes involved in cancer development in humans,” he said.
Chapkin said work initiated by Eunjoo Kim, a graduate student in his lab, recently demonstrated long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have synergistic effects when combined with curcumin, which is found in turmeric, in dramatically reducing colon cancer risk.
“We applied this combination of bioactives in order to target leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein coupled receptor 5, or Lgr5, stem cells, the cells-of-origin of colon cancer,” he explained. “Specifically, adult colonic Lgr5 stem cells preferentially damaged by carcinogenic activity are removed efficiently via programmed cell death.”
Chapkin said the ability to remove genetically damaged cells is important because residual DNA damaged Lgr5 stem cells generate defective progenitor cells and promote uncontrolled cell proliferation, which can be a factor in tumor development.
“Findings from current studies suggest that unique metabolites produced by microbes in the large intestine following the ingestion of curcumin, when combined with omega-3 fatty acids, are effective as colorectal cancer preventive agents,” he said. “Combination treatment of omega-3 fatty acids with curcumin results in a synergistic efficacy above and beyond omega-3 fatty acids or curcumin alone in deleting damaged Lgr5 stem cells at the tumor initiation stage.”
He said the same synergy is found at the pre-tumor stage of tumorigenesis in colon cancer.
“We demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids combined with curcumin decreased levels of nuclear beta-catenin, which is a colon cancer marker protein,” he said. “In general, curcumin has a low bioavailability, but omega-3 fatty acids appear to maximize their chemo-protective effect.”
Researchers in his lab have made strides in explaining how the signaling nodes in Lgr5 stem cells are modulated by these dietary bioactives.
“We found that in the presence of carcinogen, omega-3 fatty acids combined with curcumin selectively act on Lgr5 stem cells by up-regulating the p53 signaling pathway in order to remove DNA damaged cells,” said Kim. “The p53 is a tumor-suppressor gene and functions mainly as a gatekeeper and caretaker for the cell. Gatekeepers regulate cellular functions involved in cell growth and cell death and caretaker genes control cellular process involved in stem cell repair of damaged genes and maintain genetic integrity.”
Chapkin also cited recent findings from Natividad Roberto Fuentes, a doctoral candidate in the lab, demonstrating that omega-3 fatty acids actually get incorporated into phospholipids that form the cell plasma membrane, while curcumin squeezes in between spaces within the membrane, leading to modulation of lipid and protein interactions.
“This suggests that their accumulation in the colon can disrupt the membrane structure and composition of epithelial stem cells, and helps suppress dysfunctional Wnt/beta-catenin signaling that can lead to colon cancer,” Chapkin said. “This is noteworthy, because Wnt/beta-catenin signaling controls intestinal stem cell fate and aberrantly activated Wnt signaling is found in colon cancer stem cells but not in normal cells.”
Chapkin said other Wnt repression strategies exist as therapeutic options for colon cancer, but diet-induced Wnt inhibition could represent a valuable alternative strategy for primary cancer prevention.
“Overall, these recent findings suggest that our therapeutic strategy for eliminating damaged stem cells and suppressing Wnt signaling using dietary and microbial bioactives could represent a novel target for the prevention of colon cancer and possibly other cancers,” Chapkin said.
Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Dr. Robert Chapkin, 979-845-0448, email@example.com
Eunjoo Kim, 979-845-0448, firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Fuentes, 979-845-0448, email@example.com
Texas A&M University has presented one of its top student awards — recognizing outstanding accomplishments in academics, leadership and service by Kallie Fuchs of Burton, a Nutrition Science Major who graduated on Friday, May 13th. Kallie received the prestigious Brown-Rudder Award presented annually to two candidates recognized for their exemplification of the leadership and dedication to academics and Texas A&M University.
The award was approved by President Michael K. Young and presented at the Learning communities, Academic excellence, Undergraduate research opportunities, National fellowships, Capstones and Honors programs (LAUNCH) recognition ceremony that serves as a climax for the regular school year this past Thursday, May 12.
Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Award includes a cash gift of $5,000. The award honors top students who exemplify the leadership and related traits of the late Gen. Earl Rudder, a World War II hero who served as president of Texas A&M from 1959 until his death in 1970.
Fuchs graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional sciences and a minor in applied learning in science, technology, engineer and mathematics. She is described as an “academic powerhouse” and a dedicated leader. One of her nomination letter writers describes her as fitting John Quincy Adams’ description of a leader as one who inspires “others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.” Another letter states that she “represents leadership, embodies integrity, walks the walk of respect and is loyal.”
It was noted that Fuchs demonstrated her fortitude, courage and integrity as the election commissioner for Student Government, her dedication to Aggie values as the founder of Farmers Fight, the Agricultural Advocacy organization, and her commitment to selfless service through her work with the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State program.
Her embodiment of involvement and impact throughout the Aggie community resulted in her being honored by a Buck Weirus Spirit award in 2015. Her academic record reveals remarkable accomplishments in challenging coursework and undergraduate research which led to her earning the 2014 Texas A&M Gathright Scholar award and 2014 Class of 2016 Class Star Award for Academics.
Kallie finished her degree with a perfect 4.000 grade point ratio, scored in the 87% on the MCAT, and begins Baylor Medical School in Fall 2016.
Congratulations to our College Bowl team on winning first place in the South Central Region competition on April, 8 2016. Their next competition will be at nationals, in Chicago!
Since 1985, the IFTSA College Bowl Competition has tested the knowledge of student teams from across the United States in the areas of food science and technology, history of foods and food processing, food law, and general IFT/food-related trivia.
The College Bowl is designed to facilitate interaction among students from different universities, stimulate the students’ desire to accumulate and retain knowledge, and provide a forum for students to engage in friendly competition. Teams for IFT Student Chapters in eight geographical areas of the Student Association compete in area competitions prior to the IFT Annual Meeting. The winning teams from the eight areas then compete in a final competition at the Annual Meeting.
Dr. Joanne Lupton was honored with the 2016 Red Dress Award, at Lincoln Center, on Tuesday February 9th. The Red Dress Awards is an event that Woman’s Day holds annually to spotlight doctors, researchers and advocates who are making a difference in the fight against heart disease in women. Click on the following link to view more information: http://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/g2102/2016-red-dress-awards-honorees/.
Established in 1980, this awards program recognizes the commitment and outstanding contributions of faculty and staff across Texas A&M AgriLife.
Three Nutrition and Food Science professionals were recognized on January 14, 2016 with a 2015 Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence and AgriLife Faculty Fellow.
Graduate Student Teaching-Ms. Rachel M. Botchlett
Since Ms. Botchlett began her Ph.D. in Nutrition in Fall 2011, she has contributed significantly to the excellence in teaching in her department. Her first teaching experience at Texas A&M was in Nutrition 202, which has been known to overload teaching assistants. Her excellence in teaching and time management earned her the opportunity to lecture in front of large groups. And when the department critically needed instructors for undergraduate courses in Spring 2015, Ms. Botchlett was the only graduate student to serve as an instructor. Students’ evaluations reflect that Ms. Botchlett did an excellent job in helping them critically evaluate scientific papers and effectively present nutrition knowledge.
Research-Dr. Robert S. Chapkin
Dr. Chapkin is a leader in chronic disease prevention and cancer research and is among the few scientists whose discoveries are related to diet as a treatment or prevention for cancer. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health for the past 27 years. His work has been cited over 10,000 times, with more than 4,400 since 2010, resulting in a Google Scholar H-index of 56.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research 2015 Faculty Fellow- Dr. Chaodong Wu
Dr. Wu’s research on obesity-associated metabolic diseases and the connection between inflammation and metabolism in obesity has elevated Texas A&M University’s reputation in nutrition and obesity research. His groundbreaking finding on “healthy obesity” showed the importance of targeting inflammation, not fat deposition, for preventing diseases. In the past five years, he has received funding of over 3.6 million, including two highly competitive National Institutes of Health grants, and authored over 20 refereed articles.
Congratulations Dr. Chapkin on receiving the National Cancer Institute’s Outstanding Investigator Award (R35) in cancer research. This very prestigious award is given to “an exceptional and long-established cancer researcher who has been continuously funded by the NIH.” This support is intended to encourage investigators to embark on long-term projects of unusual potential. The award will fund Dr. Chapkin’s cancer research program for 7 years for a total of $6.2 million.