Nipun Saini, PhD

Assistant Professor of Nutrition

Dr. Saini’s research interest is to understand the metabolic adaptations that occur in the mother and fetus to support a healthy pregnancy, and how maladaptation to stressors such as alcohol, malnutrition, obesity, and diabetes impairs fetal growth and brain development. Eventually, she would like to translate this mechanistic understanding to the development of nutrition-based interventions for at-risk pregnancies.

Her current research uses animal models and studies the metabolic dysregulations and changes in macronutrient utilization in maternal-fetal dyad in alcohol-exposed pregnancies, and the consequences of this disruption on fetal outcomes, and long-term offspring health. She finds that alcohol limits the availability of maternal glucose to the fetus by reducing maternal blood glucose pools and prevents maternal adaptation to acquire pregnancy-mediated insulin resistance. She further finds that alcohol promotes glucose to fatty acids conversion in the mother and causes fatty liver of pregnancy, which limits fetal glucose availability and contributes to impaired fetal development. Her research fills a gap and creates a niche in an important, but neglected area of prenatal alcohol research, wherein maternal metabolism is a driver and contributes to fetal impairments. This work is supported by K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She also received 2022 Postdoctoral award for research excellence (PARE) sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, UNC Chapel Hill for her work. Dr. Saini earned her PhD in Biochemistry from University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.


In the News

When Mom Drinks, Baby Drinks

It is a hidden truth that 1 in 7 pregnant people in United States reports drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. And about 1 in 20 pregnant people reports binge drinking—defined as 4 or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion—in the past 30 days. Nipun Saini, PhD, a...