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The development of metabolic diseases, such as fatty liver, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes is influenced by nutritional, lifestyle, and genetic factors and result in myriad molecular changes that alter the progression of disease.

The overarching goal of the Sampath Lab is to delineate the cellular alterations that occur during the development of metabolic diseases. In this way, we seek to identify pathways that can be targeted for nutritional and pharmaceutical therapies to preserve health and improve health outcomes.

Over the years, our inquiries have led us to focus our efforts on two related but distinct topics– the regulation of systemic metabolic health via:

1) the modulation of lipid metabolism; and

2) the regulation of oxidative DNA damage and repair.

You will find our publications in these research areas at: https://tinyurl.com/pbrhdrct

Each of these projects is described in greater detail in the Research tab. You can also learn more about the team that carries out these projects in the People tab.

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Research

We are hiring! The Sampath Lab is seeking qualified postdoctoral candidates interested in lipid metabolism. See the full ad at: https://careers.asbmb.org/jobs/

Regulation of lipid metabolism and its impact on tissue and whole body health

This project has direct relevance to understanding human diseases like atherosclerosis, fatty liver, and diabetes and devising nutritional and pharmacological approaches to mitigate these metabolic diseases. Specifically, we are interested in understanding how lipid metabolism is regulated in different cell types and tissues like liver, intestine, and heart, with a focus on the lipid modifying enzyme, stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD). SCD catalyzes the conversion of saturated fatty acids to monounsaturated fatty acids. SCD is a highly regulated enzyme, despite the fact that its products are abundant in our diets. In turn, it plays a critical role in regulating cellular metabolism: animals lacking SCD1 are lean and protected from metabolic disease; and in human cohorts, increased SCD activity is associated with metabolic syndrome. These prior findings have rendered SCD a very attractive target for manipulation of cellular metabolism. Current investigations in our lab are focused on delineating the tissue-specific roles for this highly regulated enzyme and identifying novel roles in understudied tissues. To do this, we use unique transgenic mouse models developed in our lab, as well as primary and immortalized cell lines in culture. We use a combination of cell biological, biochemical, and molecular biology tools to address our questions related to regulation of lipid metabolism and its role in overall health.

SCD1
Figure title: The regulation of SCD1 and its role in regulating cellular metabolism                   Figure credit: Adapted from Sampath and Ntambi.  Future Lipidology 2008 3:163-73.

Oxidative DNA damage and repair and implications to metabolic health

Oxidative stress, a normal cellular process that is exacerbated by aging or by consumption of sub-par diets, results in damage to DNA pools within the cell. Such oxidative DNA damage is repaired via  the base excision repair (BER) pathway . We study how defects or enhancements in the BER pathway may be utilized to improve metabolic health and function of specific tissues such as muscle and adipose tissue, via modulation of mitochondrial health. By using novel transgenic animals and primary cells, a direct translational goal of these studies is to devise novel means to mitigate age-related losses in tissue function and metabolic fitness.

OGG1 structure.png

Figure title: Protein structure of 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase (OGG1), an initiator of BER-mediated DNA repair            Figure credit: wikipedia.org

People

We are a group of energetic and diverse individuals with a passion for understanding how nutrients and genetics influence overall health. Alumni from the lab have continued their careers both in academia and in the private sector. The lab is housed within the brand-new Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (IFNH). We are always interested in welcoming talented postdoctoral fellows and graduate and undergraduate students to the team.

Lab photo

PI

Harini Sampath 

Harini is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health, at Rutgers University. In her work, she uses her training in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition to identify cellular alterations that underlie metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Her work is funded by the NIH, the Marie-Curie Foundation, and the American Heart Association and has been published in numerous journals including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the American Journal of Physiology, Cell Metabolism, Plos One, and Endocrinology. Harini received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her B.S. from the University of New Hampshire. In her free time, Harini enjoys traveling, gardening, and spending time with her family.

Laboratory Associates

Hong

Hong Ye

Hong joined the Sampath Lab at its inception in 2016 as Lab Manager. She manages various lab duties including genotyping, nucleic acid isolations, histology, and ordering.  After work, Hong enjoys cooking and gardening and has a veritable green thumb.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Priyanka pic

Dr. Priyanka Sharma

Priyanka joined the Sampath Lab in June 2018. Trained in academia and industry her research focuses on identifying new dietary phytochemicals with promising pharmacological activity against diseases posing a threat to public health. She is currently working on understanding the molecular mechanisms that link dietary factors, including macronutrients, micronutrients, and polyphenols, to induction of DNA damage both in vitro and in vivo. In her free time she loves to travel and develop her passion for nature photography.

 

Graduate Students

Natalie Burchat

Natalie Burchat

Natalie is a doctoral student in the Molecular Biosciences program focused on elucidating the role of delta-9 desaturases in non-lipogenic tissues. In her free time, Natalie likes to exercise and to cook.

Bhavya Blaze

Bhavya is a graduate student in the department of Nutritional Sciences, who joined Sampath Lab in January 2019. Her research focuses on the modulation of exercise endurance by oxidative stress . While she is not in classes or in the lab, she enjoys spending time with her family.

Camille Duchamp

Camille is a doctoral student in the department of nutritional sciences who joined the lab in March of 2021. Her research focuses on understanding the role of stearoyl-CoA desaturases in rodent models. In her free time, Camille likes to ride her horse and explore the outdoors.

Undergraduate Students

 

Aimun Akhtar

Aimun joined the lab in 2019 as a Freshman and is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Biology. She helps the lab keep on top of routine tasks, including genotyping our extensive mouse colony.

Sarah Pfreundschuh

Sarah joined the lab as an undergraduate researcher in 2020. She is currently pursuing a degree in Nutritional Science and a minor in Biochemistry and hopes to pursue a career in functional medicine. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, exercising, and spending time outdoors.

Ranjita Suresh

Ranjita joined the lab in 2020 as a Freshman and is currently pursuing a degree in Nutritional Sciences. In the future, she hopes to have a career in pediatric medicine. In her free time, she enjoys singing, playing the ukulele, and spending time with her friends and family. 

Lab Alumni and Current Positions

Camila Silva, GH Cook Scholar 2021, MS Student, University of Barcelona, Spain

Emmanuel Encarnado, GH Cook Scholar 2021, Research Associate Princeton University

Sai Santosh Babu Komakula, Ph.D. 2020, Postdoctoral Associate, University of Illinois-Chicago

Emely Fernandez, Sampath Lab undergraduate fellow in Biology and Mathematics, medical student, Rutgers University

Tasleenpal Akal, MS Nutritional Sciences 2020, Research Associate at Novartis

Gloria Awuku, Undergraduate RiSE Scholar 2018-2019, medical student, Rutgers University

Dr. Anupom Mondal, Post-doctoral fellow in Sampath Lab 2017-2019, Senior Scientist at Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Emmanuel Marfo, accelerated MS 2019, Medical student, Eastern Virginia Medical School

Jana Tumova, Ph.D., Post-doctoral fellow in Sampath Lab, 2016-2018,  UT-San Antonio

Rohit Aita, Undergraduate Researcher and New Jersey Governor’s STEM Scholar, Genetics

Terianne Englis, GH Cook Honors Student

Stephen Argentina, Undergraduate Researcher, Food Sciences

Melanie Logue, Dietetic Intern, Sodexho

Tyra Aversa, SEBS Biology Honors Student

Ashley Morales, SEBS Undergraduate Student