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Dr. Molly S. Bray
Epigenetics
Genes, Genetics & Genomics 
Health & Medicine
Nutritional Sciences

 

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Dr. Bray’s research focuses on the relationship between energy balance and lifestyle factors such as exercise, nutrition, and circadian patterns of behavior. Her recent findings related to the genetic underpinnings of exercise adherence and the relationship between timing and quality of energy intake and weight gain/metabolic health have been featured on national and international news programs, a myriad of websites, and popular news media. Dr. Bray currently leads one of the largest genetic studies of exercise adherence established to date, the Training Interventions and Genetics of Exercise Response (TIGER) study, with a total planned cohort of more than 5,000 individuals. Her research has included investigations of aerobic fitness and resting and exercise energy expenditure in children and adolescents, circadian studies of feeding and metabolic response, and clinical studies of morbidly obese adolescents undergoing bariatric surgery. A nationally recognized expert on the genetics of obesity, energy balance, and exercise response, Dr. Bray has published extensively in a wide range of peer-reviewed journals, with her work being featured at national and international scientific meetings. 

Dr. Thomans Brenna
Nutritional Sciences

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Most of the work of the Brenna Lab is translational, tying basic research to biomedicine and human nutrition.  Some studies are designed with particular, topical human health questions in mind, and these studies have occasionally had immediate implications. The most prominent examples of this work are animal studies to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and metabolism of food sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This work often employs stable isotope tracer techniques and molecular or isotope ratio mass spectrometry to probe metabolism. Other projects, particularly those that develop instrumentation and methods for mass spectrometry techniques, have a longer term payoff. They are sometimes undertaken for the challenge of making measurements that have never been possible previously, with an eye toward eventual applications. An example of this area is the development of a novel gas phase reaction for derivatization of polyunsaturated fatty acids for facile determination of double bond structure, which has found applications associated with safety of edible oils, including detection of trans fatty acids.  More recent research is on nutrition of saturated branched chain fatty acids, a neglected class of dietary fatty acids.  Recent work involves development of methods for more precise and rapid detection of endogenous performance enhancing drugs, particularly testosterone, as well as methods for detecting exogenous drugs.

Dr. Margaret E. Briley
Nutritional Sciences 
Obesity

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Dr. Briley’s research has focused on nutrition of children who are in childcare outside of the home. Her research includes Early Childcare Education (ECE) centers where children, teachers, directors receive nutrition education and nutrition behavior changes that affect children’s food choices for life. Her publications include writing the nutrition guidelines several times for childcare for the Journal of Academy and Dietetics (formally the American Dietetic Association). She has conducted research along the Texas border in Juarez, Mexico and Candelara, Texas, in 7 other states and other cities in Texas. Randomized control trials have focused on issues of food safety, food provided by the ECE center and follow the Child and Adult Program guidelines, and centers where lunches are provided by parents for their child. When the Texas Legislature changed their regulations for ECE centers and allowed kitchens to be closed and parents to provide sack lunches, Dr. Briley’s inquiry began on what foods were in the sack lunches. This led to several studies ending in a National Institute of Health 5 year grant “Lunch is in the Bag” (LiitB). The LiitB results caused the Texas Rising Star State program to change their nutrition policies in 2015 based on the findings of LiitB from 607 parent-child dyads in three cities, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. One of Dr. Briley’s graduate students developed a unique method of collection of data from a parent child dyad while shopping in the grocery store and resulted in the nutrition behaviors involved in purchasing healthy foods for the family. This led to presentations at International meetings in Belgium and Scotland.

Dr. Briley’s research currently focuses on “kid foods” purchased by parents with intervention strategies that can help reduce obesity of young preschool children and develop healthy eating habits that can last for a lifetime.

Dr. Jaimie N. Davis
Nutritional Sciences 
Obesity
Behavior

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Dr. Davis’s research focuses on designing and disseminating nutrition, physical activity, and behavioral interventions to reduce obesity and related metabolic disorders in overweight minority children and adolescents. She has a strong background in nutrition, physical activity, body composition assessment, and metabolic testing in pediatric populations.

Dr. Davis has written numerous papers examining the role that dietary intake, specifically added sugar and dietary fiber, plays on adiposity and metabolic profiles in overweight Latino children. She has also conducted numerous clinical randomized controlled trials to examine the effects of diet and physical activity interventions on adiposity and related metabolic disease risks. She has examined the effects of diet and physical activity behaviors on cancer biomarkers, such as circulated sex hormones, fat depots and inflammatory pathways. Dr. Davis has also explored how diet interacts with genes and how these interactions influence metabolic disease risk.

She is currently conducted and testing the effects of a school and community based garden, nutrition, and cooking interventions on reductions in obesity and metabolic disease risk in minority youth.

Dr. Linda A. deGraffenried
Nutritional Sciences
Cancer

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The deGraffenried laboratory is part of an integrated program that encompasses basic research, cancer treatment, clinical trials, education programs and cancer prevention. The ultimate goal is to develop effective interventions, both pharmacological as well as diet and lifestyle that lower both the risk as well as aggressiveness of breast and prostate cancer, leading to improved survival for all cancer patients.

Dr. deGraffenried has been nationally and internationally recognized for her work in breast and prostate cancer. She receives funding for her work from the National Cancer Institute, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, and the Department of Defense. She sits on several national review panels, and is an associate editor for the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis. Dr. deGraffenried’s students have received recognition for the research that they are doing in her laboratory, including full fellowships for their graduate studies as well as numerous travel awards to present their research at national meetings.

Dr. John DiGiovanni
Cancer

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Research in Dr. DiGiovanni's laboratory has focused for many years on understanding how cancer develops and on the identification of novel targets, mechanisms and strategies for cancer prevention. Cancer is a disease involving gene-environment interactions and therefore understanding both environmental influences as well as genetic factors is key to developing the most effective strategies for preventing cancer. In addition, understanding the early cellular, biochemical and molecular changes that transform normal cells into cancer cells is essential if we are to eventually eradicate cancer as a major human disease.

 

 

Dr. Jeanne Freeland-Graves
Nutritional Sciences 
Obesity
Behavior

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Dr. Freeland-Graves has focused on obesity, trace elements and food science in her academic career. Her food science textbook was used in over 100 colleges and university for four editions. Freeland-Graves is the recipient of numerous grants involving obesity, including validation of body composition and methods for detection of obesity. She has been involved with the genetic relationships of obesity with cardiovascular risk factors, liver function markers, and insulin resistance. She also has explored the nutritional, environmental and psychological and social influences on weight retention in minority, low-income women after childbirth, as well as the biological and behavioral responses of both mothers and their children to nutrition and physical activity interventions. Her work in manganese requirements was used in the current dietary recommendations for the trace element, manganese, and the development of reference doses (toxicity levels). Other research in zinc involves its relationship to metabolic syndrome, bioavailability, and taste acuity.

Dr. Ryan Gray
Genetics

Single nucleotide genetics changes can act alone or in concert to affect the development or homeostasis of tissues and organ systems. The Gray lab takes an integrated approach to understanding this process combining Human genomic data with experimental modeling in zebrafish and mouse model organisms.  

Currently, they focus on understanding defects of the vertebral column/ spine commonly called Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS). They utilize forward and reverse genetic approaches to identify and model AIS and employ a wide-range of molecular, biochemical, and biomedical imaging techniques to understand the pathophysiology of these genetic models of scoliosis. By considering all of these components and how they affect the spine, the Gray group hopes to build a comprehensive picture of spine development and homeostasis.

Please visit the website for more information: rsg1lab.com

Dr. Christopher A. Jolly
Aging
Nutritional Sciences
Immunology

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Dr. Jolly's research area examines the influence of aging and diet on immune function with special emphasis on lipid metabolism and signal transduction in the T cell. The lab is currently funded by the National Institute on Aging and National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

His lab examines how changes in fat metabolism regulate immune function in childhood/young adulthood through old age. Currently, they are using genetically altered animal models of fat metabolism to mimic an aged immune system and analyze the impact on prostate cancer development and progression and the production of new immune cells. His researchers are combining these animal models with dietary factors like changing fat amount (diet induced obesity) and type (omega-3 fatty acids) as well as phytochemicals (resveratrol) to modulate fat metabolism to determine their effects on immune function. The ultimate goal is to identify dietary factors that regulate immunometabolism to improve immune function and subsequent health at various stages of life.

Dr. Bob Sanders

Cancer

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Research interests are in the interdisciplinary areas of nutrition and cancer biology. Long term goals are to develop vitamin E analogs as anticancer agents, and to increase the understanding of the biological actions of vitamin E, both naturally occurring forms and synthetic analogs. Current investigations involve conducting chemotherapeutic studies with a vitamin E analog referred to as alpha-TEA, using syngeneic and xenograft preclinical animal models. Cell and molecular studies are focused on understanding signaling networks involved in alpha-TEA's pro-apoptotic and anti-survival mediated anti-cancer effects.

Dr. Stefano Tiziani
Cancer
Nutritional Sciences

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Altered cellular metabolism is a hallmark of cancer and can promote tumorigenesis, sustain tumor growth and favor cancer drug resistance. The Tiziani Lab is interested in understanding how drug-induced modulation of tumor metabolism and nutrient microenvironment affect treatment outcome. Combination therapies are often needed for effective clinical management of complex diseases. Discovery of new combinations is hampered by the vast space of possibilities created when more than a few drugs over a range of doses are considered. The goal of his research group is to combine high-throughput screening measurements, magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, metabolic flux analysis and other omic data to gain a better bio-mechanistic understanding of the effects of combined drug treatment in a disease setting. The systematic combination therapy optimization effort might provide unique information about the selectivity of the treatment towards the specific disease which can be rapidly translated in a personalized drug treatment.

The lab is also interested in oxidative stress, energy balance in diet and obesity in cancer risk. Individuals with imbalanced nutritional habits are more vulnerable to metabolic diseases. In this context, the chemical analysis of the metabolome in human biofluids and tissues can provide a wealth of information on human health, including the assessment of disease state and diagnosis, drug targets and toxicity.