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Training Program: AHA Strategically Focused Research Center – Obesity Network: Intergenerational Transmission of Obesity

Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Obesity Research

The Department of Nutrition Sciences and the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham announce the availability of post-doctoral fellowships funded through the UAB Strategically Focused Research Center – Obesity Network (SFRN33570038) awarded to Dr. W. Timothy Garvey by the American Heart Association.

Postdocs name UAB top university in recent web survey (Download Top 10 PDF)

Objective

The purpose of the Training Program is to offer fellowships that prepare post-doctoral scientists for careers as independent investigators in multi-disciplinary obesity-related research related to intergenerational transmission of obesity and cardiometabolic disease.  The multi-disciplinary program project involves the study of humans and animal models and examines physiological, molecular, and epigenetic mechanisms by which the in utero environment (e.g., maternal Gestational Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolic Syndrome) programs offspring metabolism in ways that persist into adulthood.  The goal is to train future leaders in metabolic, obesity, and cardiovascular disease research.

Eligibility

  • Individuals with a doctoral degree from any scientific field are eligible.
  • UAB is committed to providing educational, employment, and enrichment opportunities for members of underrepresented groups. Women, individuals from traditionally disadvantaged groups, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Support provided for trainees

  • Stipends (for a two year period)
  • Tuition and fees for all required courses (Up to 6 hours a year, provided by the UAB Office of Postdoctoral Education)
  • Health insurance
  • Books & supplies for educational purposes
  • Travel to at least one national meeting in the trainee’s field of expertise to present their work

Key program components

  • Mentoring by program directors and major professors who have a strong track record in science and mentorship
  • Coursework available
  • Interdisciplinary research training
  • Weekly Nutrition Seminar Series
  • Hands-on intervention experience, as appropriate
  • Clinical research opportunities for those interested

Overall program summary

Our central vision is that events in utero resulting from a dysmetabolic obese environment program infant metabolism in a manner that increases risk of obesity and cardiometabolic disease into adulthood and on to the next generation. We hypothesize that specific pathophysiological processes are imprinted in utero and persist to contribute to obesity in children and adults, including: (i) abnormalities in the secretion and hypothalamic action of satiety hormones; (ii) insulin resistance; (iii) defects in lipid oxidation; (iv) reduced rates of energy expenditure; and (v) inflammation both systemically and in adipose tissue. Furthermore, the bases for these mechanistic processes involve epigenetic alterations at specific genomic sites that arise in utero and produce instrumental alterations in gene expression. Three projects within the UAB SFOC will test these hypotheses both individually and in aggregate. The basic project will study 3 models of in utero stress that differentially affect birth weight, and probe the molecular basis for mechanistic processes that augment fat mass. The human studies (projects 2 & 3) will assess the impact of a dysmetabolic obese in utero environment on offspring over the lifecycle from birth into adulthood. Epigenetic alterations associated with obesity and dysmetabolism will be identified in epigenome wide association studies (EWAS) involving mother-child dyads (children aged 4-10 years; mothers who were lean, obese, or dysmetabolic obese with GDM at pregnancy). These CpGs will be studied in in human neonates (cord blood and at 3 months) and in mouse models to determine the extent to which they arise in utero and the molecular basis by which they predispose to obesity. Thus, while each project will provide new and important discoveries standing alone, the projects are also synergistic in terms of our capacity for data interpretation, strength of conclusions, and understanding of mechanisms. Thus, for the first time, the UAB SFOC will undertake a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach, integrating mouse and human studies over the lifespan, to identify the molecular, metabolic, and epigenetic mechanisms by which a dysmetabolic in utero environment participates in the Intergenerational Transmission of Obesity.

Projects in this award

  1. Mouse models of in utero stress (PI: Garvey, WT, Co-PI: Habegger, K)
    This is a basic science project that involves an intergenerational study in Murine models. Transgenic models, control breeding schemes, and in vitro fertilization andsurgical implantation will allow extensive study of genetic mechanisms which modify theintrauterine experience for both mother and offspring, as well as the ability to separate effectsof mother to offspring from those of offspring to mother, and even to separate mitochondrialfrom nuclear genetic affects using a newly developed mouse model at our university.
  2. Mother-neonate pairs (PI: Harper, L)
    This is the population project that will involve long-term follow-up of a large cohort of mother-offspring units and then analysis of genetic and phenotypic connections of events prior to, during, and after pregnancy. Discussion is currently underway as to whether to utilize longitudinal cohort studies involving twins to gain additional insight into this or whether we will focus primarily or exclusively on singleton births. Our goal will be to glean new insights from the cohort study itself and also, to the extent possible, follow up on promising leads generated in the animal study.
  3. Mother-child dyads (PI: Chandler-Laney, P)
    This is a clinical project where women will be identified just prior to or after conception and followed through and beyond the birth of their offspring. Detailed physiologic and behavioral measurements will be taken and genotypic information on mother, offspring, and if possible father will also be made available for new hypothesis testing regarding reciprocal effects as well as for following up on hypotheses generated in the animal study. The study will be designed to minimize reliance on any self-report measures and instead rely on objective measures of adiposity, health, and behavior, to the greatest extent possible. Discussions are underway with respect to possible oversampling or exclusive sampling of mothers at high risk for metabolic anomalies including, but not limited to, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

Project Program Director and PI:
W. Timothy Garvey, M.D.
Professor & Chair, Dept of Nutrition Sciences

Training Program Director:
Julie Locher, PhD
Professor Emerita of Medicine and Public Health

Application Manager:
Assistant Professor, Dept of Occupational Therapy

Program Manager:
Jeffrey Allison

For more information:

Write to us at:
Nutrition Obesity Research Center
1720 2nd Avenue South
Webb Building 501
Birmingham, AL 35294-3360

 

Email us at:
uabjeff@uab.edu (for administrative questions)
bcwingo@uab.edu (for application process questions)
jlocher@uabmc.edu (for academic questions)


Application Procedures
Please send the following material to Dr. Wingo, Application Manager, bcwingo@uab.edu.

  1. Send full CV
  2. Brief letter describing research and training interests as an attachment to the email
  3. Application Form

"UAB is an equal education opportunity institution."