Department of Nutrition

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Metabolic Translational Research Initiative

Translational biomedical research is a model used to integrate basic, clinical, and population biomedical research to improve the nation’s health.  Scientific translation has two separate but sequential phases:

Phase One: “Bench-to-bedside,” which applies basic science findings to health care in humans in controlled situations; and Phase Two: adoption of controlled clinical research within the community health care system under less controlled conditions. These types of translation phases demonstrate efficacy and aid in determining mechanistic properties of interventions, and effectiveness within an intervention. Both translation phases contribute to the development of evidence-based practice.

A core group of Department of Nutrition faculty, who are interdisciplinary in their training, comprised of basic and applied randomized-controlled trial scientists, has formed as the first step in the development of the Metabolic Translational Research Initiative (MTRI). This core group has a goal to build a foundation for conducting translational biomedical medical research at the University of Tennessee by engaging in Phase One trials. The MTRI’s co-directors are Hollie Raynor (clinical psychologist and registered dietitian who specializes in intervention randomized controlled trials in both children and adults) and Guoxun Chen (biochemist who investigates the roles of vitamin A in the control of glucose and lipid metabolism). Additional Department of Nutrition faculty who are part of the MTRI include Lauren Gellar (research nutritionist who focuses on behavioral and physiological factors associated with nutritional health status among youth with diabetes and obesity), and Ling Zhao (biochemist who examines how diets can reduce inflammation associated with chronic diseases using a diet-induced obesity mouse model).

The following goals have been developed for the first year for the MTRI:

  1. Replicate findings in humans regarding the relationship between frequency of eating, weight loss, and weight loss maintenance in one animal study to examine the following:
      a. physiological mechanisms by which eating frequency may impact weight status.
      b. eating frequency’s effect on cardiometabolic health.
  2. Investigate eating frequency’s effect on cardiometabolic health.
  3. Involve graduate students from Cellular and Moleecular Nutrition (CMN) and from Public Health Nutrition (PHN) in the research projects.
  4. Present two seminars to the Department of Nutrition, with one in the fall 2012 semester to discuss research plans for the MTRI and the second in the spring 2013 semester to discuss findings regarding translational research projects.

The MTRI’s long-term proposed objectives are:

  1. Build collaboration between basic and applied biomedical researchers to build a transitional biomedical research center core.
  2. Increase external funding for translational biomedical research..
  3. Increase external funding for undergraduate and graduate training in translational biomedical research.
  4. Increase undergraduate and graduate student involvement in translational biomedical research.
  5. Enhance the visibility of translational biomedical research by increased output and publiciity and community outreach.

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