Santanam receives federal grant

Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H., F.A.H.A., has received funding from the National Institute on Aging to further her investigations into heart disease related to obesity and aging. Congratulations Dr. S.! Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H.

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Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor in the department of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, has been awarded a federal grant to continue her work on obesity and aging with regard to heart disease.

The $356,946 grant was announced last week by the U. S. Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Aging.

“Dr. Santanam is working very hard to address medical issues that are relevant to West Virginians and others in central Appalachia,” said Joseph I. Shapiro, M.D., dean of the school of medicine. “This federal award is very important to her research program as well as our entire university.”

In congratulating Santanam on her work, Marshall University Interim President Gary White described her as one of Marshall’s finest researchers.

“Her work is indicative of the quality of faculty we have at Marshall,” White said. “Dr. Santanam’s investigations into these common health issues could very well have a significant impact on human health—both right here in our communities and around the world.”

The risk of developing obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (cardiometabolic risk) increases with age. And, according to Santanam, though the mechanisms are still unclear, these diseases are directly linked to adipose (fat) tissue dysfunction which increases with age.

“This study will investigate the role of epigenetic regulators and RNA regulatory mechanisms in adipose dysfunction with aging,” Santanam said. “Our findings will shed light on the mechanisms that lead to age-related diseases and identify targets to treat them.”

Santanam joined the school of medicine in 2006.

In addition to her appointment in the department of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology, she also is an adjunct professor in the department of cardiology.

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Marshall biomedical professor invited to present her research internationally

Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor in the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology in the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University, has been invited to present her research, yet again.

2nd World Congress on Fertility and Antioxidants Therapy 2012Dr. Santanam will be presenting her research internationally at the International Society of Antioxidants in Nutrition and Health’s (ISANH) 2nd World Congress on Fertility and Antioxidants Therapy, December 6 – 7, 2012 in Paris, France.

Santanam’s talk is relevant to all with a condition called Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a clinical condition that afflicts 10-15% of women of reproductive age (mainly diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 35), posing a major cause for infertility and chronic pain. Since the etiology of this disease is still unknown, very few treatment options are available. Surgery is currently the best treatment; however, due to a high recurrence rate, the disease commonly returns within three to six months post-surgery. The conference provides attendees the opportunity to present and discuss new research relating to the condition. Dr. Santanam’s talk scheduled for Friday, December 7th, is titled “Prostaglandin-Like Lipid Oxidation Products in the peritoneal Fluid of Women with Endometriosis Respond to Antioxidant Therapy.” In addition to her presentation, she also will be co-sharing the meeting on December 7th, 2012. Dr. Santanam would like to acknowledge the continued collaboration with Dr. Brenda Dawley from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

It is quite an honor to be selected at such a high level in her field, and though Dr. Santanam is not foreign to these invites, she remains humble. This is the second time she has been recognized and invited to present her research in just two months. Dr. Santanam recently presented her research at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Los Angeles, California in November. Her talk was titled  “Sex differences in epicardial fat biomarkers,” which highlighted the research she has conducted over the past three years in collaboration with Marshall’s Department of Cardiology and Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. She studied the adipose tissue surrounding the heart and blood vessels in patients with coronary artery disease. 

This epicardial and perivascular fat has unique biomarkers that show differences between Nalini Santanam, Ph.D., M.P.H. the sexes; she states that with this study, they are “trying to identify biomarkers unique to this particular fat so that we can use it in the future to diagnose or in the treatment of coronary artery disease.”  Additionally, the biomarkers found in the adipose tissue have been correlated to patients with hypertension. This study is part of the West Virginia Appalachian Heart Study; therefore most of the individuals included in this study are Appalachians. Dr. Santanam would like to acknowledge: Dr. Christopher Adams, Dr. Nepal Chowdhury, Dr. Todd Gress, and Dr. Paulette Wehner.

Dr. Santanam is the chair of the Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes research cluster within Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, and is a member of its Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Toxicology. 

Congratulations on your continued achievements, Dr. Santanam!

Meet the new faculty: Dr. Emine Koc

Dr. Emine Koc, Associate Professor, Biochemistry and MicrobiologyDr. Emine Koc Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Microbiology

Education B.S. (Chemistry/Biochemistry), Ege University, Turkey M.S. (Biochemistry), Ege University, Turkey Ph.D. (Chemistry/Biochemistry), New Mexico State UniversityResearchDr. Koc’s research examines the role mitochondria play in aging, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, obesity, and cancer. Because of their central role in energy metabolism, it is becoming more apparent that mitochondria are contributing factors in these processes/diseases. In mammals, mitochondria are responsible for providing over 90% of the energy in the form of ATP, which is generated by the process of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). Mitochondria have their own 16.5 kb circular genome and translation machinery/ribosomes essential for the synthesis of 13 essential proteins of the OXPHOS complexes. The mammalian mitochondrial ribosome (55S) is composed of ~80 mitochondrial ribosomal proteins (MRPs), about half of which have homologs in bacterial ribosomes. Although many of the maternally-inherited mitochondrial disorders result from mutations in mitochondrial DNA, alterations in expression levels and mutations of MRPs also affect mitochondrial protein synthesis and cell growth. Indeed, there is growing evidence suggesting the involvement of MRPs in various disease states, apoptosis, and cancer. Clearly, changes in the expression of MRPs influence mitochondrial metabolism and alter the balance between apoptosis and tumor formation due to the changes in energy production.

Dr. Koc’s multidisciplinary research takes advantage of biochemical, molecular and cell biological, and mass spectrometry-based proteomics technologies. Using this “systems biology” approach, her laboratory has paved the way to study mitochondrial translation by identifying all the protein components of the ribosome and translation initiation factor 3 (mtIF3) in mammalian mitochondria. More recently, they have determined the modification of MRPs by phosphorylation and acetylation at steady-state levels using mass spectrometry-based proteomics. Based on these observations, they have postulated that the mitochondrial translation machinery is regulated by post-translational modifications (PTMs) as NAD+ and ATP levels regulate the activities of many other mitochondrial enzymes involved in oxidative phosphorylation.

Dr. Koc’s current research interests are all integrative and are aimed at determining how components of mitochondrial translation/ribosomes affect oxidative phosphorylation and apoptosis in normal and disease conditions. As her research unveils more about the regulatory roles of MRPs and their PTMs, new strategies will be devised to manipulate mitochondrial function/dysfunction in metabolic diseases, cancer, and aging.


In Fall 2012, Dr. Koc will team-teach Molecular Basis of Medicine and Foundations of Biomedical Science.


Dr. Koc serves as an ad hoc grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Army Research Office. She also serves as a manuscript reviewer for several journals, including Biochemistry, the EMBO Journal (European Molecular Biology Organization), EMBO Reports, Experimental Cell Research, Human Molecular Genetics, Mitochondrion, PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology, Plant Biology, Plant Cell, and Plant Physiology.

Dr. Koc is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, and the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

Contact Info

Telephone: (304) 696-3680

2011 SRIMS participant wins travel award to present at national conference

Rebecca Furby, 2011 SRIMS studentRebecca Furby, a participant of the 2011 SRIMS program at Marshall University, has won an award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, or FASEB, to present at a national conference. The FASEB Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program’s mission statement is to “achieve greater participation in the biomedical and behavioral research enterprise of this country by individuals from underrepresented minority groups.” Underrepresented minority undergraduate and graduate students, post-baccalaureates, postdoctorates, junior faculty, and faculty scientists in the behavioral and biomedical sciences are eligible to apply for the award.

The MARC program reimburses students for meeting registration and travel-related expenses, including lodging and transportation. Rebecca Furby will be using her award to attend the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) 2011 meeting in St. Louis, MO, November 9-12. According to its website, the ABRCMS meeting is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavioral science students and attracts over 3,300 participants from more than 350 U.S. colleges and universities. In addition to poster and oral presentations, students have the opportunity to network with representatives from graduate schools, summer research internships, government agencies, and professional scientific societies.

Rebecca researched in Dr. Nalini Santanam’s lab over the summer. Dr. Santanam, a professor in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, studies obesity, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive endocrinology within the Cardiovascular Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes research cluster.

Congratulations, Rebecca, on winning the FASEB MARC award!

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