Texas Tech University

Nutritional Sciences

Nutrigenomics, Inflammation, and Obesity Research Lab (NIOR)

News and Announcements 

New Faculty

  • Dr. Yujiao Zu joined the NIOR Lab in the Department of Nutritional Sciences in 2020 as a research assistant professor, mentored by Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa. Yujiao received her B.S. in Biological Engineering and M.S. in Food Sciences from Tianjin University of Science and Technology in China, and Ph.D. and two-year postdoctoral training in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at TTU. Her research focused on using bioactive compounds (such as omega 3 fatty acids and resveratrol) to reduce obesity and improve metabolic health. She has research expertise in molecular and cellular biology, nanotechnology, analytical chemistry, and experiences with cell and animal models. In the NIOR lab, her research will focus on the mechanisms of bioactive compounds in obesity and aging.

Awards, recognitions, and other news

  • Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), representing Nutrition Mechanisms. This is a 2-year term starting July 2020. ASN is the premier scientific/medical society in nutrition and is a professional home for over 5,000 nutrition scientists and health practitioners.
  • Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa was invited to serve on the ASN's NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE Scientific Program Committee to develop the scientific program for the 2021 annual meeting of ASN, to be held in June 2021.
  • Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa was among 5 black women full professors at TTU, that were recognized by the Office of Campus Access & Engagement on October 22nd during a virtual event honoring black women in the academy.


  • Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa was co-guest editor for a special issue for the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry (F: 4.873). The special issue was on Polyphenols, Obesity, and Cardiometabolic Health.
  • Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa gave an invited seminar at the Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences on November 13th, 2020, titled "Mechanisms Linking the Adipocyte Renin Angiotensin System to Metabolic Inflammatory Diseases"
  • The Obesity Research Institute (ORI), directed by Dr. Moustaid-Moussa organized two webinars on current topics related to obesity:
      • July 2021: AT the intersection of two pandemics: Obesity & COVID-19
      • November 2020: Current Topics in Cancer Research
      • The vision of ORI is to achieve national leadership & recognition in interdisciplinary obesity research & education. ORI mission is to develop interdisciplinary basic, clinical, and community translational research to prevent and treat obesity along with its related complications using innovative collaborations and strategic partnerships
      • The ORI was originally established in 2013 as the Obesity Research Cluster (ORC) in the College of Human Sciences (COHS) and was approved by the TTU Board of Regents in 2019 as an institute to foster collaborations within TTU and with the TTU System. The ORI Founding Director is Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, and reports to the Office of Research & Innovation. Dr. Jannette Dufour, Professor at TTUHSC serves as the ORI Associate Director.
      • For more information about ORI:

    Graduate Students

  • New Graduate Students:
      • Shadi Nejat is pursuing an M.S. in Nutritional Sciences degree under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa in fall 2020. She earned her B.S. in Biology degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Parker University in Dallas, TX. She has been working as a Doctor of Chiropractic for the past 12 years and is delighted to return to the world of academia and start her research at Texas Tech University. Shadi is funded by a Research Assistantship from NS and COHS. Her research is part of an international collaboration, funded by Qatar National Research Funds to investigate the role of a heat shock protein HSP40/DNAJB3 in obesity and diabetes. Specifically, she is seeking to determine mechanisms by which inactivation of this gene in mice together with high-fat diet feeding aggravate obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic dysfunctions. Shadi's goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences.

    Graduate Student News

  • Mahsa Yavari and Tariful Islam have successfully passed their qualifying exam in summer 2020 and are now Ph.D. candidates.
  • Tariful Islam, Mahsa Yavari and Shadi Nejat participated in The Graduate School's Online Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) on Thursday, October 29th. 3MT is a chance for graduate students to share their thesis or dissertation to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes or less and using only one Power Point slide.
    • Tariful's presentation was titled "Curcumin Reduces Adipose Tissue Inflammation and Alters Gut Microbiota in Diet-Induced Obese Male Mice". He was among top 6 finalists that competed in the final heat.
    • Mahsa's presentation was "Effects of Fish Oil on Metabolic Impairments in the Alzheimer's Mouse Model"
    • Shadi's presentation was titled "Inactivation of Heat Shock Protein-40 increases obesity and Type 2 Diabetes"


Visiting Scholars

  • Joao Pedro Torres Guimaraes was a visiting international student in the NIOR lab since December 2019. He just completed a one-year of research as part of his Ph.D. work and returned back to Brazil. He is a Ph.D. student in the Immunology Program at the University of Sao Paulo (USP)/Institute of Biomedical Sciences. His project focused on mechanisms linking the renin angiotensin system to obesity and diabetes with emphasis on the role of inflammation and autophagy in target tissues. He was mentored by Dr. Joilson de Oliveira Martins and Dr. Sonia Jancar (USP/Brazil) in collaboration with Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa at TTU. His visit was funded by BEPE/FAPESP program (Brazil). His fellowship was also part of an ongoing collaboration between his Brazilian mentors and Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, funded by a 2018-2020 SPRINT award (jointly funded by TTU and FAPESP).
  • Flávia Sardela de Miranda joined the NIOR lab at TTU as a short-term visiting scholar and a Research Aide and was mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa. Flávia earned her B.S. in Biomedical Sciences at the Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) and her M.S in Immunology at the University of Sao Paulo (USP). Her M.S. research focused on investigating effects of the lactate transporters in co-cultures of macrophages and cervical-derived tumor cells. She pursued a collaborative project between Dr. Moustaid-Moussa, and Drs. Rakhshanda Rahman, Professor & Breast Surgical oncologist at TTUHSC, Dr. Chanaka Kahathuduwa, Assistant Professor at the TTUHSC School of Health Professions, and Dr. Latha Ramalingam, former NIOR research faculty. The main goal of this project is to investigate the associations between BMI, antihypertensive drug use, and genes related to obesity, inflammation and the renin angiotensin system in samples from breast cancer patients.


Undergraduate Students

  • New undergraduate students:
    • Anna DesHotels is a junior Honors student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, with a minor in Biology at TTU, and is an Undergraduate Research Scholar with the Honors College and a Pi2 scholar. She joined the NIOR lab in the Summer of 2020 as an Undergraduate Research Scholar and is working under the mentorship of Dr. Kalhara Menikdiwela and Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. Anna is working with liver tissues from mice fed beef diets and high fat diets to determine effects on the development of obesity and diabetes.
    • McKenna Davis is a junior undergraduate student who joined recently to NIOR lab; she is pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology with a minor in chemistry. She is now assisting under the mentorship of Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa, and Ph.D. candidate Mahsa Yavari, they are working on protective mechanisms of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, funded by the National Institute of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and National Institute of Aging. McKenna is working alongside another undergraduate student, Angela Chavira, assisting with a project using adipose tissue from mice from lean and obese wild type and Alzheimer's mouse models.
    • Kirk Balderas is a sophomore student at South Plains College. He is pursuing a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Spanish. He joined the NIOR lab in the Summer of 2020, as a participant in the NIH funded Plains Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program. This program helps introduce students from underrepresented communities into the field of STEM. He was mentored by Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa, Dr. Latha Ramalingam, and Dr. Kembra Albracht-Schulte and Bimba Goonapienuwala. He is currently working on a project using RNA Seq to determine genes that are differentially expressed in response to fish oil feeding and uncoupling protein deficiency in livers of diet-induced obese mice. Kirk recently presented his research findings at the summer conference for the Bridges Program and continues his undergraduate research, in the lab, funded by the NIH Bridges program.
    • Salvador Galindo is a junior in the Honors College from San Antonio, TX. He is pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology with a minor in Chemistry and Health Professions. He joined the NIOR laboratory in the summer of 2020 as an Undergraduate Research Scholar and is mentored by Dr. Kembra Albracht-Schulte and Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa. He is currently working on a USDA funded project, involving feeding fish oil in combination with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in subjects with prediabetes. He is also assisting with a project to determine the effects of beef and high-fat diets on metabolic health in mice.
    • Sarah Anjum is a junior Honors student from Austin, Texas. She is pursuing a B.S. degree in Microbiology and a minor in Chemistry. She joined the NIOR lab in the fall of 2020 as an Undergraduate Research Scholar and is working under the mentorship of Dr. Kembra Albracht-Schulte and Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. Sarah will help with a USDA funded project to determine the combined effects of omega-3 supplementation and high-intensity interval training in overweight adults. Currently, Sarah is also working on an NIH funded project to understand mechanisms of fish oil on liver steatosis in a UCP-1 knockout model.
    • Ethan Thakran is pursuing a B.S. in Biology and is an Undergraduate Research Scholar with the Honors College at Texas Tech University. He is co-mentored by Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Postdoc Dr. Kalhara Menikdiwela and works alongside another undergraduate student Anna Deshotels on tissues collected from mice fed a high fat and different beef protein diets to determine effects on metabolic outcomes.
    • Colten Lanning is pursuing a B.A. Psychology and minors in Biology, Chemistry, and Spanish and is an Undergraduate Research Scholar with the Honors College at Texas Tech University. He is assisting in a research project to determine the effects of UCP1 on changes in muscle metabolism, protein, and gene expression in mice fed with or without fish oil at different temperatures. He is co-mentored by Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa and Kalhara Menikdiwela.
    • Jose Andrade is a sophomore from El Paso, Texas. He is a Biology major with a double minor in chemistry and Spanish. Jose will join the NOIR lab in the spring of 2021 as an Undergraduate Research Scholar and is co-mentored by Dr. Yujiao Zu and Dr. Naïma Moustaid-Moussa. After graduating, Jose plans on attending medical school to eventually become a general surgeon.


Lab Peer-Reviewed Publications

  1. Nutrients and Immunometabolism: Role of Macrophage NLRP3. Claycombe-Larson KJ, Alvine T, Wu D, Kalupahana NS, Moustaid-Moussa N, Roemmich JN.J Nutr. 2020 Jul 1;150(7):1693-1704. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa085.PMID: 32271912
  2. AdipoGauge software for analysis of biological microscopic images. Yosofvand M, Liyanage S, Kalupahana NS, Scoggin S, Moustaid-Moussa N, Moussa H.Adipocyte. 2020 Dec;9(1):360-373. doi: 10.1080/21623945.2020.1787583.PMID: 32654628
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Adipose Tissue: Inflammation and Browning. Kalupahana NS, Goonapienuwala BL, Moustaid-Moussa N.Annu Rev Nutr. 2020 Sep 23;40:25-49. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-122319-034142. Epub 2020 Jun 16.PMID: 32543947
  4. Renin angiotensin system inhibition attenuates adipocyte-breast cancer cell interactions. Rasha F, Ramalingam L, Menikdiwela K, Hernandez A, Moussa H, Gollahon L, Layeequr Rahman R, Moustaid-Moussa N. Exp Cell Res. 2020 Sep 1;394(1):112114. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2020.112114. Epub 2020 Jun 3.PMID: 32504676
  5. Effects of Curcumin in a Mouse Model of Very High Fat Diet-Induced Obesity. Koboziev I, Scoggin S, Gong X, Mirzaei P, Zabet-Moghaddam M, Yosofvand M, Moussa H, Jones-Hall Y, Moustaid-Moussa N.Biomolecules. 2020 Sep 25;10(10):1368. doi: 10.3390/biom10101368.PMID: 32992936
  6. Metabolic benefits of annatto-extracted tocotrienol on glucose homeostasis, inflammation, and gut microbiome. Chung E, Elmassry MM, Kottapalli P, Kottapalli KR, Kaur G, Dufour JM, Wright K, Ramalingam L, Moustaid-Moussa N, Wang R, Hamood AN, Shen CL.Nutr Res. 2020 May;77:97-107. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2020.04.001. Epub 2020 Apr 17.PMID: 32438021
  7. Discordant Dose-Dependent Metabolic Effects of Eicosapentanoic Acid in Diet-Induced Obese Mice. Pahlavani M, Ramalingam L, Miller EK, Davis H, Scoggin S, Moustaid-Moussa N.Nutrients. 2020 May 8;12(5):1342. doi: 10.3390/nu12051342.PMID: 32397139
  8. Systematic Review of Beef Protein Effects on Gut Microbiota: Implications for Health. Albracht-Schulte K, Islam T, Johnson P, Moustaid-Moussa N.Adv Nutr. 2020 Aug 6:nmaa085. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmaa085. Online ahead of print.PMID: 32761179
  9. Tart Cherry Increases Lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans by Altering Metabolic Signaling Pathways. Jayarathne S, Ramalingam L, Edwards H, Vanapalli SA, Moustaid-Moussa N.Nutrients. 2020 May 20;12(5):1482. doi: 10.3390/nu12051482.PMID: 32443669
  10. Mechanisms Mediating Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Delta-Tocotrienol and Tart Cherry Anthocyanins in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes. Harlan L, Mena LT, Ramalingam L, Jayarathne S, Shen CL, Moustaid-Moussa N.Nutrients. 2020 Oct 30;12(11):3356. doi: 10.3390/nu12113356.PMID: 33143330
  11. Role of microRNA 690 in Mediating Angiotensin II Effects on Inflammation and Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress. Menikdiwela KR, Ramalingam L, Abbas MM, Bensmail H, Scoggin S, Kalupahana NS, Palat A, Gunaratne P, Moustaid-Moussa N.Cells. 2020 May 26;9(6):1327. doi: 10.3390/cells9061327.PMID: 32466437
  12. Eicosapentaenoic Acid Regulates Inflammatory Pathways through Modulation of Transcripts and miRNA in Adipose Tissue of Obese Mice. Ramalho T, Pahlavani M, Kalupahana N, Wijayatunga N, Ramalingam L, Jancar S, Moustaid-Moussa N.Biomolecules. 2020 Sep 7;10(9):1292. doi: 10.3390/biom10091292.PMID: 32906847
  13. Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) Stress in Part Mediates Effects of Angiotensin II in Pancreatic Beta Cells. Ramalingam L, Sopontammarak B, Menikdiwela KR, Moustaid-Moussa N.Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2020 Aug 18;13:2843-2853. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S257797. eCollection 2020.PMID: 32884312


Peer-reviewed publications coauthored by Dr. Naima Moustaid-Moussa on Gender Equality in Science:

  1. Opinion: In the wake of COVID-19, academia needs new solutions to ensure gender equality. Malisch JL, Harris BN, Sherrer SM, Lewis KA, Shepherd SL, McCarthy PC, Spott JL, Karam EP, Moustaid-Moussa N, Calarco JM, Ramalingam L, Talley AE, Cañas-Carrell JE, Ardon-Dryer K, Weiser DA, Bernal XE, Deitloff J.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Jul 7;117(27):15378-15381. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2010636117. Epub 2020 Jun 17.PMID: 32554503 . [IF:9.35] Reply to Arora et al.
  2. Malisch JL, Harris BN, Sherrer SM, Lewis KA, Shepherd SL, McCarthy PC, Spott JL, Karam EP, Moustaid-Moussa N, Calarco JM, Ramalingam L, Talley AE, Cañas-Carrell JE, Ardon-Dryer K, Weiser DA, Bernal XE, Deitloff J.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Sep 29;117(39):24033-24034. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2015932117. Epub 2020 Sep 17.PMID: 32943539 [IF:9.35]

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