Texas Tech University

Nutritional Sciences

Nutrigenomics, Inflammation and Obesity Research Lab (NIOR)

Research Projects

Dr. Moustaid-Moussa's research has focused on a potential role for adipose tissue in triggering and/or potentiating obesity and associated co-morbidity. Indeed, findings from her lab and others have documented an important role for adipose tissue as an endocrine system that impacts not only fat cell expansion but also in regulation of whole body homeostasis and other tissues through the bioactive hormones, metabolites and other substances that fat tissues secrete into the blood stream. Furthermore, her research has provided evidence for beneficial effects of bioactive food compounds such as omega 3 fatty acids via modulation of adipose tissue inflammation and metabolism.

Dietary and Genetic Regulation

Renin Angiotensin System Project

Angiotensin II a hypertensive hormone produced by adipose tissue that her research has shown to promote fat storage in a glucose-dependent and insulin-like manner. The discovery of Angiotensin II in fat cells suggests a potential role of fat cells in obesity-associated hypertension. Her laboratory is using engineered mice models of overexpression or targeted inactivation of angiotensinogen, the hormone precursor, to further dissect this relationship and its modulation by diet, hormones and disease states. Cell culture models

Bioactive components of Food/Functional foods and Botanicals Project

The high prevalence of obesity and co-morbid chronic conditions has led to a search for alternative and new nutritional therapies both for prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders. Inflammation is well documented as the basis for obesity-related disorders including cardiovascular disease and diabetes and several bioactive food components have been used to prevent and treat many disease states. Our research program has thus also undertaken an additional approach to identifying mechanisms governing nutrient- gene interactions in obesity including understanding how food bioactives, botanicals and dietary supplements impact human health and disease in rodent models and human and animal cells. Specific compounds currently studied include omega 3 fatty acids, isoflavones and switchgrass extractives.

Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is a procedure recommended for obese Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance and other metabolic disorders. Insulin resistance is a key player in in several disorders, including dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that patients who undergo gastric bypass surgery experience a near immediate resolution of their diabetes and hypertension, independent of, and antecedent to the weight loss. Our goal is to dissect mechanism associated with reversal of insulin resistance post-bariatric surgery. Given the importance of adipocyte inflammation in obesity and metabolic disorders, we hypothesized that down-regulation of adipocyte inflammation may contribute to the beneficial metabolic effects of bariatric surgery, independent of weight reduction. In this project, we are are determining changes in inflammatory (TNF-α, IL6, MCP-1, etc) and anti-inflammatory (adiponectin, IL-10, etc.) adipokines weeks or months after surgery, vs at time of surgery. This research will help determine the mechanism of resolution of diabetes and insulin resistance after gastric bypass and may help develop additional medical therapies to treat this morbid condition.

Obesity-Cancer Project

Breast cancer is still the second highest cause of death from cancer. Recent epidemiological studies have demonstrated that obesity (especially postmenopause) can lead to higher risk of breast cancer. With the alarming rate of increased obesity in the US, there is an urgent need to understand how fat cells can interact with breast cancer cells to promote the cancer associated inflammation, tumor growth, and metastasis in the fat cell-rich environment of the mammary gland. Our lab has developed recent research interest in this area, in collaboration with other cancer researchers. We are investigating the contribution of obese adipocytes to breast cancer progression as an approach to future design of targeted strategies to prevent and treat postmenopausal obesity-associated breast cancer. We are also interested in how dietary factirs such as omega 3 fatty acids modulate obesity-breast cancer interactions.

Obesity Research Cluster

An exciting new initiative led by Dr. Moustaid-Moussa is the development of the interdisciplinary Obesity Research Cluster involving TTU and HSC faculty (links). This initiative provides researchers with multidisciplinary collaborations and thus a great opportunity for students interested in this area for a broad and comprehensive training in both basic, clinical and applied community and population research in obesity.


Nutritional Sciences