The mentors in the NUPEDHA program provide leadership to trainees. The mentorship committee is composed of senior investigators who have promoted research relevant to the NUPEDHA mission. Each member brings a different background and a unique set of experiences.
Ronald Ackermann, MD, MPHProfessor, General Internal Medicine & Geriatrics
Dr. Ackermann's primary expertise is in the development and evaluation of healthcare-community partnerships to implement evidence-based health promotion, preventive, and chronic disease management services for adults. During the past decade, he has designed and directed a series of research studies focused on the translation, implementation, and evaluation of the Diabetes Prevention Program and Look AHEAD lifestyle interventions involving partnerships among busy healthcare providers and leading community organizations, such as the YMCA. In his role as Director of the Center for Community Health of the Northwestern University Institute for Public Health and Medicine, he has organized and participated in several large initiatives involving public-private partnerships to evaluate emerging policy questions, translate clinical trials, and address community health priorities. In this role, he is accountable for ensuring the success of other Northwestern University investigators and trainees who aim to engage primary care providers, community organizations, public health leaders, and patients in the design of research to improve health and healthcare.
Grant Barish, MDAssistant Professor of Endocrinology
The major focus of research in the Barish lab is to discover the epigenomic and transcriptional basis of metabolism and inflammation. Our recent work has helped to reveal the genomic architecture for transcriptional regulation in innate immunity. Surprisingly, while nodes of control are often at significant linear distance from regulated genes, the interplay between transcriptional activators and repressors is highly proximate, occurring at shared nucleosomal domains. Moreover, we identified a powerful role for the BCL6 transcriptional repressor in macrophage quiescence and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Currently, we are exploring the impact of activator?repressor interactions on enhancer function and transcription, the signal-dependent control of repression, and the functional impact of transcriptional activators and repressors in cardio-metabolic disease. To these ends, we use a variety of genetic, molecular, next-generation sequencing, and biochemical methods as well as physiological models. We anticipate that these studies will provide insight into the underlying balance of transcription and its implications for the development and progression of disease.
Joseph T. Bass, MD, PhDProfessor & Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Molecular Medicine
The major focus of research in the Bass laboratory is on the molecular links between neural circuits coordinating sleep, wakefulness and feeding behavior, with systems important in peripheral fuel utilization, including the insulin-signaling pathway. The major overarching theme of his research is to dissect transcriptional and posttranslational interactions between circadian and metabolic gene networks in the development of diabetes and obesity. These studies are an outgrowth of his discovery that mutation of the gene encoding the transcription factor CLOCK, present within both brain and in peripheral metabolic tissues, leads to altered sleep, feeding activity, obesity and diabetes. Projects in the laboratory now exploit both genetic and biochemical methods to pinpoint the cell and molecular basis for co-regulation of circadian, sleep and metabolic pathways within specific cells of hypothalamus, and peripheral metabolic tissues. This approach has elucidated a novel function for the clock gene network in glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (within Islets of Langerhans) and in control of feeding (in the POMC neuron). He has also pursued a series of biochemical analyses leading to the discovery that clock gene activators control endogenous NAD biosynthesis. Extensions of this work include analysis of altered protein acetylation within both nuclei and mitochondria of circadian mutants.
Serdar Bulun, MDProfessor & Chair, Obstetrics & Gynecology and Chief, Division of Reproductive Biology Research
The Bulun laboratory focuses on the transcriptional mechanisms responsible for aromatase overexpression and estrogen production in peripheral tissues. These studies include investigation of aberrant expression of transcription factors involved in activation of steroidogenic and COX-2 genes in uterine stromal cells. Dr. Bulun’s team also studies the role of progesterone receptor isoforms in the clinically observed resistance to progesterone action in peripheral tissues. Finally, his group investigates epithelial-stromal interactions leading to overexpression of COX-2.
Richard T D'Aquila, MDHoward Taylor Ricketts, MD, Professor; Associate Vice President of Research
Dr. D'Aquila studies of HIV persistence aim to develop a functional cure. This includes discovery of approaches to modulate cell proteins such as APOBEC3s, and translation to proof-of-concept clinical trials.
Richard Green, MDProfessor, Gastroenterology & Hepatology
The Green laboratory focuses on the molecular mechanisms of hepatic lipid metabolism and mechanisms of cellular injury. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is one of the most common causes of liver disease in the United States, and accounts for the majority of cryptogenic cirrhosis. NASH is associated with the metabolic syndrome, which includes insulin resistance, obesity, and dyslipidemia, and type 2 diabetes. In addition, recent evidence indicates that there is a strong genetic component for the susceptibility and progression of steatohepatitis. NASH is a polygenic disease, and Quantitative Trait Loci analysis is a widely utilized genetic technique that can be applied to murine models in order to determine the chromosomal loci responsible for the expression of complex traits and polygenic diseases. In addition, mechanistic studies focus on hepatic gene expression and the role of nuclear receptors in regulating hepatic injury and fibrosis.
M. Geoffrey Hayes, PhDAssociate Professor, Endocrinology, Metabolism & Molecular Medicine
Dr. Hayes's research interests lie in both evolutionary population genetics and genetic epidemiology. The evolutionary population genetic projects include the examination of genetic profiles of prehistoric and contemporary populations from the North American Arctic and Subarctic to better understand human population histories in these regions. His genetic epidemiology projects involve the identification of genetic risk factors underlying common, complex genetic traits and diseases such as diabetes and related metabolic and cardiovascular traits, as well as the development of new methods to conduct such studies. Dr. Hayes's particular specialty in genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics is the design and implementation of genome-wide association studies.
Tamara Isakova, MDAssociate Professor, Nephrology & Hypertension
Dr. Isakova’s investigates the impact of phosphate and fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) reduction strategies on bone and mineral metabolism and on intermediate cardiovascular and renal end points in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), including diabetic nephropathy. She is a Co-I in the NIDDK-funded U01 Consortium on Pilot Studies in CKD and has been actively involved in the development of the protocol for the COMBINE (CKD Optimal Management with Binders and Nicotinamide) Study.
Namratha Kandula, MD, MPHAssociate Professor, General Internal Medicine & Geriatrics
Dr. Kandula’s primary research interests are to: 1) eliminate health disparities by conducting translational, community-driven research; 2) inform health care system delivery of prevention that is patient and community-centered. She currently directs an interdisciplinary research program to understand the causes of racial/ethnic disparities in cardiometabolic diseases and to develop interventions that address these disparities. Her research program addresses a weakness noted at the time of the last competitive renewal that our training program lacked opportunities for primary care/community based research.
William Lowe, Jr, MDProfessor, Endocrinology, Metabolism & Molecular Medicine
The Lowe laboratory in collaboration with the Kaufman laboratory and other investigators in Materials Science, and Biological and Chemical Engineering is seeking to develop novel approaches to enhance islet engraftment and function post-transplant as described above. Efforts are now under way to take advantage of the ability of these scaffolds to release bioactive molecules, either DNA or peptides, as a means to enhance the microenvironment of the transplanted islets and, thus, optimize the survival and revascularization of transplanted islets and, possibly, stimulate islet cell proliferation. The Lowe lab is seeking to develop approaches to differentiate embryonic stem cells into insulin-secreting cells.
A second interest of the Lowe laboratory is the interaction between the intrauterine environment and genetics in determining size at birth as well as genetic determinants of maternal metabolism. To address this interest, he, in collaboration with others at NU, is using DNA and phenotype information from ~16,000 mothers and their babies who participated in the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes (HAPO) Study. One of the underlying hypotheses being examined is that genetic variants that impact upon insulin sensitivity or secretion when present in mother and/or fetus result in variation in fetal growth. Planning has also been initiated to follow up a subset of the HAPO mothers and babies to examine the hypothesis that maternal glucose levels during pregnancy are positively correlated with measures of adiposity, lipidemia, glycemia, and BP during childhood.
Elizabeth McNally, MD/PhDElizabeth J. Ward Professor and Director, Center for Genetic Medicine; Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
As a physician and scientist, Dr. McNally is interested in bringing the benefits of research discovery to the practice of medicine. She is a human geneticist and cardiologist. Her clinical and research interests are in the genetics of cardiovascular and neuromuscular disorders. McNally Lab studies genetic mechanisms responsible for inherited human diseases including heart failure, cardiomyopathy, muscular dystrophy, arrhythmias, aortic aneurysms. Working with individuals and families, they are defining the genetic mutations that cause these disorders. By establishing models for these disorders, they can now begin to develop and test new therapies, including genetic correction and gene editing.
Frank J Palella, MDPotocsnak Family – C.S.C. Professor; Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases)
Dr. Palella studies HIV infection & sexually-transmitted diseases
Susan Quaggin, MDProfessor & Chief, Division of Nephrology
The research program of Dr. Quaggin's laboratory uses complementary approaches of gene targeting and phenotype-driven screens in mice to identify novel interactions and genes in kidney and vascular development and disease with an ultimate goal to identify targets for therapeutic intervention. She has been a Principal Investigator at the University of Toronto since 1997. She has substantial experience in supervising, training and mentoring graduate trainees, basic science and clinical post-doctoral fellows and has been greatly invested in nurturing the development of young physician-scientists and graduate students.
William Schnaper, MDProfessor, Pediatrics - Kidney Disease
The Schnaper laboratory investigates cellular signal transduction mechanisms related to TGF-β-stimulated fibrogenesis. This mediator is a central component of fibrogenic responses. The Schnaper laboratory has identified a number of classical growth factor-associated signaling pathways that interact with the TGF-β-specific Smad signaling pathway, and is dissecting the molecular mechanisms involved in these interactions. Most recently, the lab has begun to investigate how integrin attachment-mediated cell signaling modulates TGF-β signaling.
Margrit Urbanek, PhDAssociate Professor, Endocrinology, Metabolism & Molecular Medicine
Dr. Urbanek's research focuses on the identification of susceptibility genes for complex diseases. Her approach to this research is to use family based gene-mapping techniques and population based association studies in conjunction with molecular techniques to identify and verify genes and pathways contributing to the pathogenesis of genetically complex diseases. Specifically, she is carrying out studies to identify susceptibility genes for PCOS that map to Chr19p3.13. She has previously shown that this region shows linkage and association with PCOS in a large set of families. Other projects focus on identifying candidate genes for gestational diabetes and glycemic control during pregnancy, and identifying genetic variation contributing to extreme obesity.
Douglas Vaughan, MDIrving S. Cutter Professor, Cardiology and Chair, Department of Medicine
Dr. Vaughan’s research efforts focus on the problems of blood coagulation and tissue repair associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). His multidisciplinary team studies the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to the expression of proteolytic enzymes and enzyme inhibitors involved in processes including tissue remodeling and blood clot dissolution .The team uses genetically altered mice to investigate components of this clot-disrupting system in vascular disease. Finally, the group participates in studies using animal models of vascular disease to test small molecule drugs. These studies will guide the efforts test new agents for treating imbalances of tissue remodeling and blood clotting.
Ramana Davuluri, PhDProfessor, Biomedical Informatics, Department of Preventive Medicine
The Davuluri laboratory investigates epigenetic modifications across alternative promoters and associated isoform-level gene signatures in normal and cancer genomes. The overarching goal of the lab is to translate data from high dimensional (“omic”) platforms (e.g., NextGen sequencing) to derive experimentally interpretable and testable discovery models towards genomics-based clinical decision support systems. His group is also developing bioassays that can rapidly identify biomarkers from human tissue and blood samples.
Abel N Kho, MDAssociate Professor, General Internal Medicine & Geriatrics; Biomedical Informatics, Department of Preventive Medicine
Center for Healthcare Studies, IPHAM, FSM). Dr. Kho's research group investigates the application of geographic information systems and large dataset driven decision support, including the creation of electronic networks spanning multiple institutions. One of his electronic networks tracks over 11,000 patients with drug resistant infections in the region and provides secure real-time admission alerts to infection control providers. He currently leads the development of the PCORI-funded Chicago Area Patient Centered Outcomes Research Network (CAPriCORN) distributed query infrastructure.
Milan Mrksich, PhDProfessor, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology
Research in the Mrksich Group emphasizes the design and preparation of surfaces for applications in the basic and applied biological sciences. One major theme uses a chemical approach to prepare two-and three- dimensional materials that serve as well-defined mimics of the extracellular matrix and which are used to understand the roles for distinct ligand-receptor interactions in regulating cellular processes. A second major theme develops high throughput assay formats based on the SAMDI label-free mass spectrometry method to assay biochemical function. These projects have evolved from my graduate training as a bioorganic chemist at Caltech and as a surface chemist while doing my postdoc at Harvard. Our program emphasizes the molecular design and synthesis of biologically active surfaces and is described in more than 120 papers during my independent career and by the placement of trainees in independent positions in academia, industry and related fields.
Justin Starren, MD, PhDAssociate Professor and Chief, Biomedical Informatics, Department of Preventive Medicine
Dr. Starren’s research has focused on the development of informatics solutions that push the boundaries of what is possible with current hardware and software. An early example was the development of 3D nuclear cardiology visualization software. Most recently, his research has focused on the big data challenges of integrating genomic and clinical data for personalized clinical decision support. His research focuses on the integration of genomic, and other large data sources, into Electronic Health Records.
Mentors in Training
Jami Josefson, MD, MSCIAssistant Professor, Endocrinology, Department of Pediatrics
The overarching goal of Dr. Josefson’s research is to identify infants and children at high risk of developing obesity so that early intervention to prevent adult obesity can be facilitated. She studies the relative contributions of genetics versus metabolic pregnancy environment as risk factors in the development of childhood obesity. She is using non-invasive imaging techniques to study adipose tissue distribution and brown adipose tissue in children.