Molecular Nutrition

Researcher working in human nutrition labWe study how nutrients, especially micronutrients such as carotenoids, selenium, zinc and folate, interact with genetic factors to influence health and susceptibility to disease.

Our research covers two broad aspects:

  • identifying genetic factors that influence nutritional requirements
  • investigating the mechanisms by which nutritional factors alter gene expression and cell function

The availability of genetic information from The Human Genome Project and SNP consortia projects provides the opportunity to explore the extent to which genetic factors influence inter-individual variability in nutritional requirements. Ultimately this has implications for the delivery of nutritional advice (personalised nutrition) in which nutritional requirements are tailored for individuals or population sub-groups based on genetics, gender, and life-stage.

Modern molecular techniques, including high-through put tools such as transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics are transforming how nutritionists can examine how alterations in nutritional status affect biochemical pathways. We are using these approaches to study the mechanisms by which nutrients affect cell function and metabolism at the tissue, cellular and molecular levels. For example we are studying how micronutrients affect cell function in the colon and in immune cells and how nutrition affects epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation through which metabolic changes can regulate events later in life. An important aim of our research is to identify novel biomarkers of nutrient status and of health.

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