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February 10, 2003


Emory University Stays on the Cutting Edge of Nutrition Science With the Development of a New Nutrition Center

Nutrition researchers at Emory University have launched the Emory Center for Clinical and Molecular Nutrition, a multi-disciplinary research unit based in the Department of Medicine, which was established in 2002 to facilitate and strengthen the presence of nutrition-oriented research on campus.

The Center is directed by Thomas R. Ziegler, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, and is co-directed by Sampath Parthasarathy, Ph.D., McCord Cross Professor of Gynecology/ Obstetrics and Professor of Medicine, and Dean P. Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry. The Executive Committee of the Center is chaired by R. Wayne Alexander, M.D., Ph.D., R. Bruce Louge Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine.

"The science of nutrition is an integrative discipline that frequently doesnít have a strong voice in medical schools" says Dr. Ziegler, who also directs the required second year medical school course in nutrition at the Emory University School of Medicine. "We want our medical school graduates to be knowledgeable about nutrition and its appropriate use to treat and prevent illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes."

Dr. Ziegler says that nutrition is assuming ever-greater importance in new approaches to disease management and the time is ripe to integrate and increase nutrition-oriented basic, translational and clinical research at Emory.

In its effort to emphasize the importance of nutrition and nutrition research, the Center will sponsor several seminars and symposia annually to educate faculty, students and other health care professionals. The first symposium, "Obesity: Causes, Consequences, Controversies and Care" will be held on February 13. An expert group of investigators, including faculty from Emory and several other U.S. medical schools, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society will address the causes and issues of obesity. The conference is directed toward physicians and other health professionals responsible for the medical treatment and care of conditions associated with adult and pediatric obesity. It will cover areas such as the epidemiology of obesity in the United States and in the developing world, obesity as a risk factor for cancer and other chronic diseases, controversies in the dietary management and prevention of obesity, and behavioral, medical and surgical treatment of obesity. The seminar comes at an important time as obesity is increasingly being recognized as a major nationwide health problem.

Along with Dr. Ziegler, Drs. Pathasarathy and Jones are enthusiastic about positioning Emory on the cutting edge of nutritional science.

"If we can carefully assess an individualís nutritional state and specific nutrition-related endpoints such as antioxidant status, we can determine how to use diet or perhaps targeted nutrient supplements to correct nutritional deficiencies and improve health," Dr. Parthasarathy says. "For this, and to achieve the Nutrition Centerís long range plans and strategy initiatives, we need commitment, trained technical personnel, more nutrition-oriented faculty, and increased doctoral and post-doctoral training opportunities. Emory is already recognized as a reputable clinical and medical school, but it can be enhanced by integrating a strong nutrition center."

Dr. Jones envisions future opportunities and possibilities in nutrition research and individualized patient care by the using genomics (study of the human genome, or genetic code) and proteomics (study of the sequence of each human protein) for nutritional assessment of individuals.

"With the sequencing of the human genome, there have been tremendous developments in terms of understanding the unique genetic characteristics of individuals and what their needs are," Dr. Jones notes. "And if we explore the implications of proteomics for nutrition, we have the possibility to assess an individualís unique needs according to their specific genetic characteristics, lifestyle, chemical exposures, exercise and activity level, and individual risks. "

The Executive Committee and Advisory Council of the Emory Center for Clinical and Molecular Nutrition have identified several opportunities for nutrition research growth at Emory, including in the areas of nutritional assessment and therapy in gastrointestinal, neurologic and vascular diseases, cancer, bariatrics, geriatrics and in hospitalized patients with critical illness, burns and trauma. A major resource for clinical investigations in these areas will be the NIH-funded General Clinical Research Centers at Emory University Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital.

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