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Vol 40  No 8
January 10, 2008


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The emerging science of nutrition and genomics
by SHARON GRAY


Dr. Guang Sun has taken a lead role in establishing the Nutrigenomics Research Interest Group.

The emerging field of genomics is having an impact on the study of human nutrition and health. At Memorial, a Nutrigenomics Research Interest Group has been established and the first Newfoundland Nutritional Genomics Symposium will take place Jan. 31 at the main auditorium of the Health Sciences Centre.
Dr. Guang Sun, Genetics, has taken a lead role in establishing this group, which includes representatives from biochemistry, biology, mathematics, pediatrics and pharmacy. He explained that nutritional genomics is a new way of understanding the effect of food on the body.

“For the past several hundred years medical science has used a scientific system of simplification to understand nutrition,” he noted. “Now we are at the point, with the growing problems of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, to look at the effect of nutrients on gene expression at all levels of the body.”

Dr. Sun said that genomics is the whole set of the human genes, while genetics deals with individual genes. His lab has the province’s first DNA microarray facility which allows his team to measure more than 40,000 genes in one gene chip in each experiment. Since the human genome contains between 20,000-30,000 genes in total, this means that each experiment can measure the gene activities of the whole human genome in the body.

Dr. Sun’s own research is looking at the genetic and genomic reasons why overweight people seem to have so much trouble losing weight, even when they incorporate diet and exercise into their daily lives. His current research involves a comparative expression study on the alteration of global mRNA profiles of human adipose tissue in response to overfeeding in obese and non-obese subjects. His team is studying the genetic and nutritional factors leading to the predisposition to type 1 and type 2 diabetes in people in this province.

At the Newfoundland Nutritional Genomics Symposium on Jan. 31, Dr. Sun will talk about nutrition and genomics and explain how this powerful new science can solve the health puzzles in the Newfoundland population. Dr. Sean Brosnan, Biochemistry, will speak about genomic approaches to the fine structure of the liver. Dr. Fereidoon Shahidi, Biochemistry, will talk about antioxidants and why they are good for human health. Dr. Barbara Roebothan, Community Health and Humanities, will speak on the prevalence of the top three common diseases and general nutritional status in the Newfoundland population. Dr. Yangyang Xie, Genetics, will speak about genetic variation and myocardial infarction.

The afternoon sessions of the symposium include an equally wide variety of talks on aspect of nutrigenomics. Dr. Sudesh Vasdev, BioMedical Sciences, will speak on a nutritional approach to prevent hypertension. PhD candidate Jennifer Shea will talk about identifying obesity candidate genes through overfeeding in young men using DNA microarray technology. Dr. Brian Staveley, Biology, will address insulin signaling, starvation and nutritional stress. In the final session of the symposium, Dr. Leigh Anne Newhook, Pediatrics, will talk about obesity and diabetes prevention. Dr. Mohsen Daneshtalab, Pharmacy, will talk about “chemical finger printing” and its application in the development of medicinally effective nutraceuticals. And Dr. Steve Carr, Biology, will talk about mitochondrial population and the genomics of the founding population of Newfoundland.

The first Newfoundland Nutritional Genomics Symposium is co-sponsored by the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research. To register, e-mail gsun@mun.ca or fax your name, affiliation, phone number and address to 777-8455.

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