The research in Velayutham laboratory is focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms by which blueberry/strawberry-derived microbial metabolites improve endothelial dysfunction during metabolic syndrome (MetS). Human studies support the vascular beneficial effects of berry anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are extensively metabolized by the gut microbiota in humans, suggesting their vascular benefits might be mediated by their microbial metabolites. Velayutham lab showed that: blueberry/strawberry supplementation improves vascular inflammation and dysfunction, and increases the beneficial gut bacteria in diabetic mice; key blueberry metabolites attenuate palmitate-induced endothelial inflammation and vascular dysfunction (Mol Nutr Food Res 2018, Int J Cardiol 2018 & 2019, J Nutr Biochem 2019). Current research in Velayutham lab is focused on (1) determining the mechanisms by which anthocyanins-derived metabolites improve endothelial dysfunction in MetS, (2) determining the role of gut microbiota in mediating the vascular effects of blueberry/strawberry, and (3) determining the impact of circulating metabolites on endothelial dysfunction and identifying the most active metabolite(s). Physiologically relevant models and state of the art techniques will be used to evaluate the mechanistic roles of microbial metabolites of blueberries/strawberries at the cellular level, tissue level and organism level. This study will provide strong scientific rationale for recommending dietary intake of berries to improve vascular health in the US population and worldwide.
The major emphasis on the student’s training will have three aspects:
- Developing competence in conducting research: The student will be involved in a study that is focused on identifying the role of blueberries/strawberries and their metabolites on vascular complications in metabolic syndrome. Specifically, they will be involved in the following:
- Animal study - Measuring blood glucose, blood lipids and blood pressure; assessing vascular inflammation; and measuring inflammatory markers.
- Cell culture study - Culturing human aortic endothelial cells, treating the endothelial cells with berry metabolites, assessing protein and mRNA expressions of biomarkers.
- Analyzing Data: The student will assist in analyzing data and quantifying results using SPSS software (specifically t- test and ANOVA).
- Developing additional skills in writing scientific abstracts/manuscripts, and presenting the research data at the lab meeting, seminars in other departments and at national scientific meetings such as Experimental Biology.
Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits
Plant nutrients is an exciting and active field of study. Because many students are interested in nutrition and how scientists develop and study questions around nutrition, our lab is a great place to explore questions of broad interest. This carefully designed research training plan will enhance the student’s skills as an emerging scientist. During this training, the student will develop skills in research techniques, writing scientific manuscripts, and presenting research data in conferences. This will serve as a foundation for his/her career.
Nutrition & Integrative Physiology
College of Health
I believe one of the best equalities as a mentor is to create an environment that motivates the mentee to learn and provides a place where the mentee can immerse themselves in the research project. The environment should also build confidence in the mentee so that they can better express themselves regardless of their level of mastery. I believe enthusiasm and constant encouragement will create such an environment. My central goal is to empower the mentee in their education by providing exciting research opportunities. In my research, I aim to evoke excitement of discovery and achievement. I devote the necessary time to training and directing individual members of the laboratory. I have no teaching obligation in summer and devote 100% effort for research projects and mentoring in summer. I interact with the individual on a daily basis to review data, address research questions, and design future experiments. This is complemented with a weekly lab meeting and two-hour interdepartmental meeting, where a student makes a formal presentation of his/her current or proposed work, which fosters critical thinking and interaction between lab members and develops their communication skills.