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.
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.
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.
Figure title: Protein structure of 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase (OGG1), an initiator of BER-mediated DNA repair Figure credit: wikipedia.org
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.
PI: Harini Sampath
Harini Sampath is an Associate Professor tenured in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University. She is a resident faculty at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health, where she also directs the Lipidomics Core. 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.
Research Associates and Postdoctoral Fellows
Ms. Hong Ye joined the Sampath Lab in 2016 as a Research Associate. She manages various lab duties including animal colony maintenance, genotyping, nucleic acid isolations, and histology. After work, Hong enjoys cooking and gardening and has a veritable green thumb.
Dr. Priyanka Sharma joined the Sampath Lab in 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 alterations in energy balance. In her free time she loves to travel and develop her passion for nature photography.
Natalie Burchat 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 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 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.
Matthew Selby started his academic career in the Biochemistry and Human Physiology Departments at the University of Oregon and is now a Nutritional Sciences graduate student at Rutgers. He joined the lab in January 2022, and his research examines how tissue-specific stearoyl-CoA desaturases modulate whole-body lipid and energy homeostasis. In his free time, he enjoys weightlifting, gardening, and being outraged at TikTok dietary advice.
Bhavya Prakash Gupta joined the lab as an undergraduate researcher in 2021. She is currently pursuing a degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Public Health and hopes to pursue a career in medicine. In her free time, she enjoys playing guitar, going on walks with her family, and reading political satire.
Jeanine Vidola is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Biological Sciences in the SEBS Honors Program, who joined the lab as a Sophomore in 2021. She hopes to become a Physician’s Assistant in the future and travel across the world. She enjoys spending time with her family and trying new foods.
Sampath Lab Alumni — Where are they now?
Sarah Preundschuh, GH Cook Scholar 2022
Nirali Trivedi, GH Cook Scholar 2022
Ranjita Suresh, GH Cook Scholar 2022
Joseph Woods, Undergraduate Research Associate-Biotechnology, January-December 2021
Camila Silva, GH Cook Scholar 2021, current: MS Student, University of Barcelona, Spain
Emmanuel Encarnado, GH Cook Scholar 2021, current: Research Associate Princeton University
Sai Santosh Babu Komakula, Ph.D. 2020, current: Postdoctoral Associate, University of Illinois-Chicago
Emely Fernandez, Sampath Lab undergraduate fellow in Biology and Mathematics 2016-2020, current: Rutgers University Medical School
Tasleenpal Akal, MS Nutritional Sciences 2020, current: Research Associate at Novartis
Gloria Awuku, Undergraduate RiSE Scholar 2018-2019, current: Rutgers University Medical School
Dr. Anupom Mondal, Post-doctoral fellow in Sampath Lab 2017-2019, current: Senior Scientist at Takeda Pharmaceuticals
Emmanuel Marfo, accelerated MS 2019, current: Medical student, Eastern Virginia Medical School
Jana Tumova, Ph.D., Post-doctoral fellow in Sampath Lab, 2016-2018, current: Postdoctoral fellow, 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