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    Science Saturday: Researchers investigate precision nutrition to improve health, prevent diseases

Could prescribing specific nutrients, grains, fruits and vegetables tailored to a person's DNA and other biological characteristics help improve their health?

Precision nutrition is taking center stage at Mayo Clinic's upcoming Individualizing Medicine Conference on Nov. 2-3, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota, where some of the world’s top experts will share their knowledge of the potential benefits of tailoring nutrients and dietary guidance to a person's genes, metabolism, microbiome and other distinguishing characteristics. The ultimate goal of the holistic approach is to promote health and help prevent diet-related diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.  

Research shows nearly 11 million deaths worldwide are linked to diet-related factors annually, along with the contributing impacts of genetics, age, gender, weight, and deficiencies in sleep and exercise. 

Just as people respond differently to certain medications, known as pharmacogenomics, a person's genes and lifestyle can also alter their responses to the foods they eat, including how their body metabolizes, absorbs and distributes nutrients.

Precision nutrition is part of a new era in individualized medicine, driven by advances in multi-omic approaches — with particular attention on metabolomics, which is the study of substances created when the body breaks down food, drugs or its own tissue.

Multi-omics is a combination of two or more "omics" approaches. Related to nutrition, a concerted multi-omic approach uses the patient’s genomics, metabolomics and microbiome. Additional omics include proteomics, the study of proteins; epigenomics, the study of epigenetic changes on DNA; and transcriptomics, the study of RNA molecules.  

Predictive power of metabolomics

Ian Lanza, Ph.D., directs a research program in endocrinology, nutrition and metabolism, and is the director of the Metabolomics Core Facility at Mayo Clinic, which specializes as an analytical resource for detection and quantitation of small molecules. Dr. Lanza's research is centered on obesity, aging and other metabolic-related disorders.

"Overall, my work is focused on discovering effective, realistic and economical approaches to help people live healthier lives longer by advancing the understanding of molecular cellular events that contribute to metabolic and functional decline," says Dr. Lanza. "Metabolomic technologies can help us detect and quantitate these various small molecules that are in all of our cells. They're in our bloodstream. They're in our urine, our saliva, our tears." 

Dr. Lanza says analyzing small molecules can provide a window into what is happening to certain metabolic pathways in a cell.

"Metabolomics helps us answer questions like, what underlying metabolic pathways may be altered by a disease condition or treatment, and who may be likely develop future disease?" Dr. Lanza explains.

Dr. Lanza says the power of metabolomics is the potential ability to foresee a person's risk for certain diseases and provide opportunities for prevention. 

Precision nutrition in the spotlight at 11th annual Individualizing Medicine Conference

The 11th annual Mayo Clinic Individualizing Medicine Conference, called "Explore the Exposome" on Nov. 2-3, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota, will bring together some of the world's top scientists and clinicians to share the latest precision nutrition research, including these featured speakers: 

Sharon Donovan, Ph.D.

Sharon Donovan, Ph.D., is a professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, teaching both basic and advanced nutrition classes, and has been included on the “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students” more than 25 times for nine different courses. Dr. Donavan has 225 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, and receives grant support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Agriculture, and the food and pharmaceutical industry.

Susan Sumner, Ph.D.

Susan Sumner, Ph.D., is a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. Dr. Sumner’s research activities span several domain areas in personalized medicine, metabolomics and biomarkers research, obesity, and NanoHealth. She has led projects designed to identify biomarkers for the early detection of disease, to monitor disease progression or therapeutic intervention, and to gain insights into mechanisms of response. Dr. Sumner also leads several research efforts that involve using metabolomics to reveal mechanistic insights related to the impact of environmental exposure in utero or early in life on reproductive and developmental outcomes.

Ian Lanza, Ph.D.

Ian Lanza, Ph.D., is a consultant in the Department of Internal Medicine, an associate professor of medicine in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, and serves as the associate research chair in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism and Nutrition. Dr. Lanza directs NIH-funded research programs to investigate skeletal muscle and adipose tissue as target tissues to lessen the burden of chronic disease, including obesity, aging and cancer. He also directs the Metabolomics Core Facility that serves as an analytical resource for small molecule detection and quantitation and co-directs the Undiagnosed Disease Network Metabolomics Core. Dr. Lanza’s other interests also include mitochondrial physiology, extracellular vesicles, multiomics and exercise physiology.

David Wishart, Ph.D.

David Wishart, Ph.D., is a distinguished university professor in the Departments of Biological Sciences and Computing Science at the University of Alberta. Dr. Wishart has studied protein folding and misfolding for more than 30 years using a combination of computational and experimental approaches. These experimental approaches include NMR spectroscopy, circular dichroism, fluorescence spectroscopy, electron microscopy, protein engineering and molecular biology. The computational methods include molecular dynamics, agent-based modeling, bioinformatics and machine learning. 

Learn more about the 11th Annual Individualizing Medicine Conference and register todayUse promo code BLOG100 for $100 off registration.

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