Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"IBCN - Investigation of the epigenetic impact of foods on the breast epithelium"

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Fall 2013 - DURI
Research area(s):
biology, epigenetics, nutritrion, Culture
Project Description:
Nutrigenomics is a field of research that focuses on the study of nutrition impact on gene expression. Nutrients involved in breast cancer risk have been identified as modulators of the epigenome (i.e., the chromatin organization that controls gene transcription). However, only a handful of nutrients are known to influence the epigenome and for only few of these is the underlying epigenetic mechanism of action known. Breast cancer incidence is rising in most countries and a change in diet is considered to have a major influence on such phenomenon. In order to better understand how dietary modifications might increase breast cancer risk and possibly promote cancer onset, an analysis of major food components in various diets for their impact on the epigenome is necessary. This project includes the identification of essential/core food components in diets from six countries located in six regions of the world and the development of standardized procedures for the epigenetic analysis of these components. As a proof of principle, one or two ethnic foods with known composition will be tested in cell culture for their epigenetic impact.
Expected Student Contributions:
The student will work with nutritionists to analyze recipe books and identify major components of the ethnic diet of six different countries. These components will be studied for their known impact on epigenetic pathways and/or the expression of genes involved in breast cancer with the IBCN-HUB epigenetics and nutrigenomics databases used as a research tool. During this process the student will have the possibility of interacting with computer scientists involved in database development. Finally, the student will work at the bench with breast epithelial cells treated with fatty acid-based food components and beverage from Uruguay to analyze their impact on DNA methylation and histone modifications that represent two major epigenetic pathways.
Related Website(s):
Desired Qualifications:
usual DURI requirement. The student should have a strong interest in nutrition and if possible major, or at least minor, in nutrition.
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?
Yes, 3 credit hours

Professor in Charge

Lelievre, Sophie
basic medical sciences

Student Supervisor

Sophie Lelievre
Associate Professor

Cooperating Faculty

Qing Jiang