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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 improve health outcomes.

Research

Project 1: Regulation of lipid desaturation and its impact on tissue and whole body health

Dietary and cellular saturated fatty acids can be rapidly converted to monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) by the ER-membrane resident enzyme, stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 (SCD1).  These MUFAs are preferred substrates for synthesis of storage lipids such as triglycerides and have also been shown to regulate cellular processes such as de novo lipogenesis and insulin signaling.  SCD1 is a highly regulated enzyme, despite the fact that its products are highly abundant in our diets.  Work from many labs has established that SCD1 plays a critical role in regulating cellular metabolism.  Animals lacking SCD1 are lean and protected from metabolic disease.  Similarly, in human cohorts, plasma indices of increased SCD1 activity are associated with features of metabolic syndrome.  These prior findings have rendered SCD1 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 the impact of aberrant lipid desaturation on tissue and whole body 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.

Project 2: Oxidative DNA damage and repair – implications to metabolic homeostasis

Oxidative stress such as that induced by consumption of high-fat diets is thought to be a causal factor in the development of obesity.  One of the intracellular targets of oxidative radicals is DNA bases within genomic and mitochondrial (mt) DNA pools. In order to counteract the deleterious effects of this oxidative damage to DNA, cells exclusively use the base excision repair (BER) pathway.  BER is initiated by DNA glycosylases, with the enzyme 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase (OGG1) being the primary enzyme responsible for the removal of the most prevalent ROS-induced DNA adduct, 7,8-dihydro-8-oxoguanine (8-oxoG).

OGG1 structure.png

Deficiencies in OGG1 have been associated with several diseases including cancers and neurodegenerative diseases, and type 2 diabetes. Our lab has shown an association between defects in DNA repair and metabolic disease by demonstrating that a lack of either of two different DNA repair glycosylases (Neil1-/- and Ogg1-/-) increases susceptibility to obesity and metabolic syndrome.  Conversely, overexpression of OGG1 confers protection against obesity and insulin resistance.  Current lines of investigation are aimed at delineating the differential roles of genomic and mitochondrial DNA damage to the development of metabolic disease and determining the tissue-specific effects of unrepaired DNA damage to whole body energy balance.

 

People

Lab photo

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Harini Sampath 

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Harini Sampath 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 current research interests include: 1) understanding the consequences of oxidative stress on DNA damage and mitochondrial function; 2) designing rational nutritional and pharmaceutical approaches to enhance cellular tolerance of oxidative stress, and 3) disentangling the roles of different dietary macromolecules, including carbohydrates and fats, on influencing disease susceptibility. Her work has been 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, 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.

Laboratory Associates

Hong YeHong

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

Dr. Priyanka SharmaPriyanka pic

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

Sai Santosh Babu KomakulaSai

Sai is a doctoral student (Biochemistry) and is engaged in research on the role of DNA repair mechanisms in modulating risk for obesity and metabolic dysfunction. In his free time, Sai loves travel and photography.

 

Tas

Tasleenpal Akal

Tas is a Masters’ student in the Nutritional Sciences program.  In her free time, Tas is a keen poet and hopes to publish a book of her work someday.

 

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

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

Emely pic

 

Emely Fernandez

Emely joined the Sampath Lab as an undergraduate researcher in 2016.  She assists with laboratory maintenance and inventories and studies on the role of dietary antioxidants on DNA damage and repair.

 

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.

 

 

 

gloria awuku

Gloria Awuku

Gloria first came to the the Sampath Lab in June 2019 as part of the Research Intensive Summer Experience (RiSE) program. She enjoys cooking, trying new foods, and being active.

 

 

Camila Silva

 

Camila Silva

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

Lab Alumni

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

Emmanuel Marfo, accelerated MS 2019, Research Associate at Oncodeva

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