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Renowned scientist joins research institute

KANNAPOLIS — Susan Sumner, Ph.D joins the UNC Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) as a professor of nutrition.

Sumner is working to make personalized medicine a reality through metabolomics. Metabolomics involves measuring thousands of metabolites in cells, tissues and biological fluids. This approach can provide a more comprehensive view of an individuals’ metabolism than the limited measurements (such as glucose and cholesterol) that doctors employ today. Using metabolomics, Sumner assesses differences in the metabolic profile of individuals that correlate with states of wellness or disease. She is also conducting laboratory studies to identify responses to treatment in areas such as obesity, drug-induced liver injury, infectious disease and reproductive and developmental biology.

For the past 12 years, Sumner has worked at the Research Triangle Institute as a senior scientist, and the principal investigator and director of the NIH Common Fund Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core (ERCMRC). Her research involves projects designed to identify biomarkers for the early detection of disease, to monitor disease progression or therapeutic intervention and to gain insights into mechanisms of response. Sumner has also served as the principal investigator of a National Institute of General Medical Sciences grant that used metabolomics to reveal noninvasive markers of drug-induced liver injury. She has led research efforts using metabolomics to reveal mechanistic insights related to the impact of environmental exposure in utero or early in life on reproductive and developmental outcomes. She also serves as a principal investigator for NIEH-funded basic research that involves estimating human health risks from exposure to
nanoparticles.

“My expertise in using metabolomics in studies of obesity, diet, smoking, cancer, diabetes, cognitive development, liver disease, maternal and child health and the environmental influence of disease complements the nutrigenomics research at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute,” said Sumner. “Metabolomics provides a means to determine the link between genes and nutrition requirements, and to understand how nutrition impacts gene function. In addition to contributing metabolomics expertise to NRI projects, my team will expand studies in the areas of human variation in metabolism, maternal and child health, diabetes and kidney disease.”

Director Steven H. Zeisel, MD, Ph.D said, “The UNC NRI is leading the way at the frontiers of nutrition research, developing the science behind personalized nutrition. Dr. Sumner brings to us the ability to see what is happening in our bodies by broadly measuring the results of all of metabolism. Combined with our ability to study genes, we now have powerful new ways to see what we could not see before regarding nutrition and health.”

With Sumner’s arrival in Kannapolis, the institute will be home to the Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Research Core. This is one of six centers in the United States that work together to establish national standards for metabolomics, to provide training, and to increase national metabolomic capacity in clinical and translational research.

 About the UNC Nutrition Research Institute

The UNC Nutrition Research Institute’s mission is to advance the field of precision nutrition by investigating how genetics and environment affect an individual’s requirements for and responses to nutrients. Every person is metabolically unique. The NRI is dedicated to finding out how these differences affect an individual’s health so that current one-size-fits-all dietary guidelines can be replaced with customized nutritional recommendations and actions to improve a person’s health and quality of life.

For more information on the Nutrition Research Institute, or to schedule an interview, contact Suzanne Dane, Director of Community Outreach and Development, UNC Nutrition Research Institute at 704-250-5008.

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