CENTER FOR RESEARCH ON BOTANICALS & METABOLIC SYNDROME (BRC)

MISSION

The mission of the Center for Research on Botanicals and Metabolic Syndrome is to pursue an integrated understanding of the molecular, cellular, and physiological mechanisms by which select botanicals may prevent or reverse the development of insulin resistance, the key pathophysiologic feature of the metabolic syndrome.

The Botanical Research Center was successfully funded for a second 5-year cycle in 2010 by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. Our center is a collaborative effort between the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment at Rutgers University.

The theme of our center is “Botanicals and Metabolic Syndrome.” The metabolic syndrome has traditionally defined a condition whose major features consisted of obesity, insulin resistance, development of type 2 diabetes, and accelerated cardiovascular disease. The development and appearance of other traditional risk factors, e.g., hypertension, dyslipidemia, and nontraditional risk factors, e.g., inflammation, coagulopathy, are also associated with the condition. Because of the staggering increase in the prevalence of obesity that has now reached epidemic proportions and the fact that the components of the metabolic syndrome have become increasingly prevalent in children, this syndrome continues to represent one of the most important public health problems facing society today. As such, the study of botanicals and their effects to modulate pathologic processes as part of the metabolic syndrome has become even more important since the inception of our center.

Goals The scientific goal of our center is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of specific, compelling hypotheses about the molecular, cellular, and physiological mechanisms by which botanicals can modulate the development of the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms of, and attenuate the development to, metabolic syndrome. To accomplish our goal, our center has encompassed the disciplines of nutrition, plant chemistry/characterization, metabolism, physiology, endocrinology, molecular and cellular biology, and genetics and has spanned both the basic and clinical sciences. Thus, our interdisciplinary approach has allowed for a comprehensive evaluation of botanicals on pathogenic processes by evaluating multiple cellular mechanisms of action.

Our center consists of three specific research projects, each of which evaluates a specific botanical and assesses the effect on pathogenic mechanisms leading to the development of insulin resistance. Project 1 investigators are conducting studies to evaluate mechanisms of action by which selected extracts of Artemisia sp. modulate insulin receptor signaling and insulin sensitivity in both animal and early-phase human studies. Project 2 investigators are focusing on mechanisms by which selected Artemisia sp. extracts and Hypericum perforatum L. (St. John’s wort) affect adipocyte development, adipokines, and insulin action. Project 3 investigators are evaluating how Asclepias incarnata modulates central mechanisms controlling appetite and energy expenditure as a means to improve overall energy balance and weight. Our projects are supported by a Botanical Core and an Administrative Core. A unique aspect of our center is the formation of the Integrative Biology Core, which includes an Animal Research Subcore and the Analytical Chemistry Subcore, comprising a clinical chemistry/stable isotope component and a proteomic/metabolomic component. This combines state-of-the-art in vivo metabolic phenotyping with detailed ex vivo proteomic and metabolomic profiling of serum and tissue samples to provide highly integrated metabolic signatures of the pathophysiology of insulin resistance and its resolution by botanical extracts. As such, each project is supported by cutting-edge technologies that include metabolomic profiling, proteomic assessments, and bioaccessibility determinations.

William T. Cefalu, MD
Director

Pennington Biomedical Research Center:

  • William T. Cefalu, M.D.
  • Zhong Q. Wang, M.D.
  • Jacqueline Stephens, Ph.D.
  • Thomas Gettys, Ph.D.
  • Jennifer Rood, Ph.D.
  • Randall Mynatt, Ph.D.
  • Phillip Brantley, Ph.D.
  • William Johnson, Ph.D.
  • Indu Kheterpal, Ph.D.

Biotech Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ:

  • Ilya Raskin, Ph.D.
  • David Ribnicky, Ph.D.

North Carolina State University Plants for Human Health Institute:

  • Slavko Komarnytsky, Ph.D.