T-32: Botanical Approaches to Combat Metabolic Syndrome


The primary aim of this training grant is to train postdoctoral fellows to understand the role of botanicals on the complex interactions between genetic, molecular and physiological aspects of metabolic syndrome.

Each postdoctoral fellow in this training program is encouraged to develop interdisciplinary research efforts to understand the effect and action of botanicals on components of the metabolic syndrome. The program will take advantage of the cutting-edge technologies and the wide range of research efforts related to metabolic syndrome that are available at the Pennington Biomedical, while having access to expertise in botanical research and novel botanical compounds as available through the Botanical Core in collaboration with the Rutgers Department of Plant Biology and Pathology.

Program Overview

Metabolic syndrome, a condition whose major features consist of obesity, insulin resistance and development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, is reaching epidemic proportions.  The objective of this proposed training grant is to train both Ph.D. and M.D. postdoctoral fellows to become productive research scientists capable of establishing scientific careers that further efforts to understand the role of botanicals on the complex interactions between genetic, molecular and physiological aspects of the metabolic syndrome.

Many qualified scientists in the areas of molecular biology, genetics, physiology, and metabolism have been attracted to the study of the metabolic syndrome, but lack the expertise or resources to expand their research to the study of how botanicals may affect these physiologic or molecular processes. Conversely, individuals who may be well versed in plant discovery, characterization and standardization may need to have their approach complemented by molecular, genetic and physiologic approaches. We aim to bridge the divide between the plant discovery/characterization approach and the molecular biology/physiological approach by providing training in these areas and by encouraging postdoctoral interdisciplinary research efforts to understand the effect and action of botanicals on components of the metabolic syndrome.

This training program will take advantage of the staff and resources of our NIH sponsored The Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center, a joint venture between Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the LSU Agricultural Center and the Rutgers University Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment.  Most fellows will be based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana but some will be based in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Program Structure

Trainees entering the program will be assigned a Primary Mentor, a faculty member whose research is of major interest to the trainee and in whose lab the trainee’s office is likely to be located. A Secondary Mentor in a different but relevant area will also be identified.

Along with working side by side in research activities with our faculty mentors, trainees will be expected to attend coursework in nutrition, complimentary and integrative medicine, metabolic syndrome, and botanical science. They will also participate in workshops on grant proposal preparation and the responsible conduct of research.  Throughout each year, trainees will attend seminars by visiting scientists, work-in-progress presentations by faculty, postdoc data presentations, and they will present their ongoing research and training activities to the Program’s Steering Committee.

Pennington Biomedical Research Center Fellows

This training program is sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (formerly NCCAM) and is located within the Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center (BDSRC) on the campus of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

T32 postdocs will work toward enhancing research interactions between botanical characterization and molecular/genetic/physiologic approaches in both the basic science and clinical research areas. Trainees working in the laboratories of our basic and clinical scientists will benefit from collaborative research with botanical scientists. Learning about multiple areas of metabolic research and how botanicals interact and influence metabolic and cellular pathways will likely promote creativity and inspire trainees to transcend the boundaries that limit current research. We want our trainees to gain exposure to at least two specialty areas (e.g., genetics of metabolic syndrome, molecular regulation of insulin action, biochemical botanical characterization, botanical therapeutics) as we anticipate this will encourage future interdisciplinary research efforts needed to understand this complex and challenging syndrome.

Rutgers Department of Plant Biology and Pathology Fellows

The Rutgers Department of Plant Biology and Pathology is internationally recognized for their research programs in plant biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, botanical therapeutics research, and natural products bioprospecting from plants and microbes.  The Biotech Center has direct access to 16,000 sq. ft. of a modern research greenhouse facility located nearby, which is uniquely designed for the cultivation of a wide selection of medicinal plants throughout the world.

Research fellows at the Rutgers Department of Plant Biology and Pathology will learn isolation, structure elucidation, synthesis, and biosynthesis of selected natural products derived from mevalonic acid (isoprenoids and steroids), amino acids (alkaloids), fatty acids, shikimic acid (phenolics), and polyketides (carboaromatics); and learn methods for determining the identity, purity, quality, and processing of botanicals.

Phillip J. Brantley, PhD
Program Director
Professor and Director of Educational Programs Pennington Biomedical
6400 Perkins Road
Baton Rouge, LA 70808-4124