Pennington Biomedical Awarded Federal Grant to Continue Targeted Obesity Research

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Released: Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Baton Rouge, LA – LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been awarded a five-year, $5.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)'s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) to continue its research in "Nutrition and Metabolic Health through the Lifespan" in its Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC).

Pennington Biomedical's NORC was first funded by the NIDDK 10 years ago. This grant renewal will fund the next five years of the NORC's work. Over the past decade, NORC research has focused on collaborative and multi-disciplinary opportunities aimed at generating new research ideas and moving the best of those ideas from the lab bench to the patient's bedside.

Research in the NORC has traditionally focused on studying the causes of chronic disease, such as how the environment during pregnancy and early life may influence a child's risk for developing obesity and metabolic problems in adulthood. Recent discoveries in this field of science have proven that anyone's fate for health and disease is not only dictated by genetic makeup, but also by the early life environment starting in the womb. Over the next five years, NORC research will broaden to include nutrition and metabolic health from young to old age with a focus on three critical periods of life including maternal and infant nutrition, childhood and adult obesity, and preserving mind and body as we age.

"Science continues to show us that the factors in play in the womb and in childhood can have an impact on our health later in life. As we move forward in our understanding of the role that nutrition plays in our metabolic health, this support will allow us to take a deeper look at the interaction between our environment and our metabolism, and how we might better prevent and treat chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes," said Eric Ravussin, primary investigator for the NORC and Pennington Biomedical's associate executive director of clinical research.

A sample of NORC ongoing research includes:

  • Investigation into signaling pathways within pancreatic beta cells and inflammation that may lead to diabetes
  • A study of adipocytes (fat cells) in mammary glands that play a role in breastfeeding and how specific adipocytes affect lactation, milk composition and the nutritional status of nursing babies
  • Targeted pediatric research studies aimed at increasing physical activity, improving overall health and engaging community participation

"This successful grant renewal is a great example of the benefits of research to both our state and our center," added Pennington Biomedical executive director Will Cefalu. "These federal grants are incredibly competitive. A decade ago, we engaged state dollars to match the federal investment in this research. Our grant application reflected that dual commitment and we were awarded this funding over research entities from across the country. Today, a decade later, that initial investment continues to yield benefits for both the local research economy and the health of our population."

NORC funds for pilot research projects will also be available to academic research institutions across Louisiana. To read more on NORC projects at Pennington Biomedical, click here. NIDDK funds twelve university-based NORCs that are specifically designed to support research that explores the development, treatment, and prevention of obesity and closely examines the relationship between health and nutrition. The overall goal of the federal NORC program is to bring together basic scientists and clinical investigators to enhance and extend the effectiveness of nutritional sciences and obesity research. NORC also provides funding to help young investigators become successful and independent in biomedical research geared to better understanding the links between nutrition and metabolic health from young to old age.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes And Digestive And Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number P30DK072476.


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.