Know Your Neurotransmitters: Acetylcholine

It’s high time we covered acetylcholine — the most plentiful neurotransmitter in the body. And our Know Your Neurotransmitters series continues with the best guest possible to talk to us about acetylcholine: Dr. Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD. Dr. Zeisel, UNC Nutrition Research Institute Director, was involved in the first study of the effects of choline — the nutrient precursor to acetylcholine — on humans.

What’s the Big Deal About Choline?

In Dr. Zeisel’s first experiment with humans, he fed men and women a diet deficient in choline. Most men and postmenopausal women became ill when deprived of choline. Their bodies weren’t able to produce their own choline and they began to experience liver problems: fatty liver accumulation and liver cell death. These problems reversed within a few days of reintroducing choline to their diet.
For younger women, however, 55% did not experience any negative effects from choline deprivation. The difference? Estrogen. There’s a gene in our livers, PEMT, that can produce choline but it’s only turned on by estrogen. Neither men nor postmenopausal women produce enough choline to switch on the gene. And those 45% of women who did get sick? They have a gene “misspelling” that makes their PEMT gene unresponsive to estrogen.
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NRI Summer Tours

Mark your calendars, because Summer Nourishment Tours are back at the NRI. Find out where scientific discovery takes place by touring the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis. Points of interest include one of only a few whole-room calorimeters in the US, body composition lab, and a research laboratory. Our research in nutrigenomics is serving individuals in our communities, across our nation and throughout the world.

All tours begin at 11:00 AM. Guests should arrive a few minutes early. Tour Dates:

  • June 8
  • June 22
  • July 13
  • July 27
  • August 17
  • August 31

Tours limited to 16 people and will run approximately one hour in length.
Register Now

University of North Carolina Introduces New Research Core Merging Nutrition And Genetics

The University of North Carolina Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC) introduces the new Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics (NGx) Core. Located in the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) on the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis, NGx has been created to assist investigators in conducting studies that lead to a better understanding of the impacts lifestyle and genetics have on health and disease.
“We want to help investigators realize that neither nutrition nor genetics should be studied in isolation,” explained Saroja Voruganti, PhD, NGx director and Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the NRI. “Our goal is to popularize this idea and help scientists understand how genetics play a role in nutrient metabolism.”
NGx provides benefits for a wide range of investigators, such as nutritional epidemiologists, psychologists, geneticists and physicians who want to enhance their scientific capabilities by incorporating the core’s expertise into their studies.

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NC A&T And Industry To Bring Novel Aspirin Derivatives To The Marketplace

Patients who require the benefits of aspirin without the accompanying stomach irritation are a step closer to comfort and cures with the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement. Dr. Shengmin Sang, a food scientist with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, licensed his patent for a family of novel aspirin-derived compounds to SARISA Therapeutics, an Invenshure Company out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Sang’s patented compounds may be useful in treating or preventing colon cancer, heart disease and other disorders. Through this commercialization effort, more patients may be able to receive the benefits of aspirin without incurring adverse side effects.
“The timing of this agreement couldn’t be better for patients,” explains SARISA Therapeutics CEO Danny Cunagin. “Last April, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force added colon cancer to the list of diseases for which aspirin should be prescribed as a preventive treatment. We aim to make Dr. Sang’s discoveries available to all patients who need aspirin’s therapeutic usefulness minus its gastric irritation side effects.”
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