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Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard

Background

The nutritional needs of hospitalized patients are important factors in the management of disease states. Increasing evidence exists that attention to defining these needs may improve long-term outcome and decrease hospital costs by shortening inpatient days. Further, advances in the nutritional management of pre- and postoperative surgical patients and trauma patients have strikingly reduced the morbidity and mortality associated with these conditions. Many reviews of the treatment of malignant patients have included extensive emphasis on improved nutritional care and the need to define nutritional needs during active treatment, whether involving chemotherapy or radiotherapeutic management or other therapeutic modalities. As the research tools for characterizing mechanisms of disease are being applied at the cellular and molecular levels, it is apparent that nutrition-related disease states such as diabetes, malnutrition, and obesity may be treatable eventually by use of recombinant DNA as gene therapy or blocking receptors using hybridoma technology. Accordingly, it is extremely important to establish a research environment, which encourages the approach to defining common clinical nutrition research problems using the most sophisticated technology and biological knowledge available.

As important as traditional nutrition studies are in defining the appropriateness of nutrients for special disease states, it is equally as important to encourage established investigators to apply their considerable expertise to the answering of basic nutrition research questions. In the establishment of the NORC, an attempt has been made to lend support to existent nutrition programs throughout the Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health and the biomedical community at Tufts USDA facility..

The various clinical nutrition-related educational programs for medical students, house officers, and physicians in the Harvard/HSPH community need to be supported and improved. The assembled medical and basic research faculty within the HMS/HSPH community needs to be encouraged to pursue research and clinical trials in nutritional management of hospitalized patients and informed of recent breakthroughs in our understanding of nutritional needs in various disease states.

Major but not exclusive areas of research emphasis within this center will be nutritional needs of infants during the perinatal period including the role of nutrients on enterocyte gene regulation, a better understanding of lipid and lipoprotein metabolism as it pertains to cardiovascular disease prevention, nutrition and cancer, diabetes, obesity, and the nutritional needs and importance in post trauma states. Included in the center are major clinical programs in eating disorders, foodborne infection, and nutrition support. To accomplish this goal, investigators with expertise in molecular biology, cell biology, morphology, and established expertise in human intermediate nutrient metabolism, assisted by the use of mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resource technology have been assembled to support NIH-funded research and pilot/feasibility studies directed at answering important nutritional questions in disease states. As outlined in the discussion of core facilities and research programs, several investigators have program project grants related to nutrition research questions as well as substantial RO1 and research foundation support to address the goals of the NORC. In addition, many of these same investigators have a presence in other centers, which can be brought to the NORC as shared resources. The NORC itself provides an intellectual catalyst to encourage new collaborative approaches to clinical nutrition research and to supplement existing research, which will begin to address clinical research questions within a given area. It is anticipated that these efforts will be substantially assisted by the Biomedical Cores of this Center.

Furthermore, it is through this Center that these core resources and enrichment programs can be used to mobilize a much broader program in nutrition research, attracting many talented investigators to explore the mechanisms of nutrition-related disease and nutrition-related preventive health maintenance at the intraphase between basic and applied research.

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Updated 1/25/2008