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Research Interests

The overarching goal of the Sampath lab is to delineate the cellular alterations that occur during the development of metabolic diseases, including fatty liver, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. In this way, we seek to identify pathways that can be targeted for nutritional and pharmaceutical therapies to preserve health and improve health outcomes. Current projects in the lab can be grouped into the following topics:

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 an emphasis 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 muscle function

This project is focused on identifying novel mechanisms by which muscle function and endurance may be improved and devising strategies to preserve muscle function during the aging process. 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 muscle function and endurance, via modulation of mitochondrial health. By using novel transgenic animals, isolated myotubes, and muscle cells in culture, a direct translational goal of these studies is to devise novel means to mitigate age-related losses in muscle function.

OGG1 structure.png

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

Influence of dietary flavonoids on the gut microbiome – sex differences and implications for metabolic health

This project explores sex differences in response to dietary flavonoids and modulation of the gut microbiome. A direct goal is to develop personalized nutrition strategies to preserve metabolic and gut health. By studying divergent responses to oral nutrition therapies in male and female animals and combining multiple ‘omics’ approaches (microbiomics, genomics, metabolomics, lipidomics), we aim to identify unique pathways that are regulated by dietary flavonoids and ultimately influence overall health.

Figure title: Differential gut microbiome responses to flavonoid supplementation in females and males Figure credit: Sampath Lab

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

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Harini Sampath 

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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 in 2008 and her B.S. from the University of New Hampshire in 2002. 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.

Deeptha

Deeptha Kumaraswamy

Deeptha joined the Sampath Lab in 2017 as a Research Associate and supports the lipidomic needs of the lab.  Deeptha operates and maintains the lab’s gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) instrument.  In her spare time, Deeptha enjoys cooking and making intricate origami.

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.

Undergraduate Students

Emmanuel Encarnado

Emmanuel Encarnado

Emmanuel joined the lab as an undergraduate researcher in 2018. He is currently pursuing a degree in Biochemistry and hopes to work as a pharmaceutical scientist in the future. Emmanuel is a GH Cook Honors Student completing his thesis on lipid regulation of GLP-1 secretion in the Sampath lab.

Camila Silva

Camila joined the lab in 2020 as a G.H Cook Scholar; her thesis is focused on sex differences in the gut microbiome. She is currently pursuing a degree in Biotechnology and a minor in Biochemistry. In her free time, she loves traveling, singing and photographing sunsets.

 

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

Sai Santosh Babu Komakula, Ph.D. 2020, Assistant Professor, Wroclaw University, Poland

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

Tasleenpal Akal, MS Nutritional Sciences 2020

Gloria Awuku, Undergraduate RiSE Scholar 2018-2019

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

Emmanuel Marfo, accelerated MS 2019, Medical student at 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