OCASCR Scientist Judith James, MD, Ph.D., elected to National Academy of Medicine
Next OCASCR Grant Deadline: January 27, 2023
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Distinguished Speaker Series
David Ginsberg, MD- January 17, 2023
Kenneth Ataga, MD- February 28, 2023
Spotlight on OCASCR Core Equipment

Archana Unnikrishnan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Director of Research Programs
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

1.     What is your lab’s long-term/big-picture research goal?
Dr. Unnikrishnan’s research focuses on various aspects of aging: (1) the effect of dietary restriction on aging and insulin sensitivity, (2) the effect of dietary restriction on intestinal stem cell aging, (3) the effect of dietary restriction on DNA methylation, and (4) the role played by DNA methylation in dietary restriction-mediated metabolic/cellular memory.
2.     What is your training/scientific background?
Dr. Unnikrishnan received her doctorate in Nutrition and Food Science from Wayne State University, minoring in Cancer Biology, and pursued aging research training at the University of Oklahoma.
3.     What is the goal of your OCASCR project?
Dietary Restriction (DR) is the most consistent intervention to date that is shown to slow aging and increase lifespan. DR has also been shown to improve stem cell function in various tissues, including enhancing the capacity of intestinal stem cells (ISCs) to regenerate an entire intestinal tissue. Our laboratory has established that DR improves ISC function and that DR implemented for just a few months can prevent the decline in ISC function that occurs with age. Our OCASCR project proposes to identify the mechanism behind DR’s effect on ISC function. It has been shown that adult stem cell function can be regulated by specific modifications in DNA, such as DNA methylation. Our project proposes that DR implemented for the short term leads to changes in DNA methylation in key ISC genes, which benefits ISC function. Our goal is to identify specific DNA methylation changes induced by DR in young and old mice and to determine if these changes correlate with expression of genes involved in ISC function.
4.     How might your research impact diseases related to obesity or smoking?
Obesity increases the risk of developing gastrointestinal diseases such as gastro-esophageal reflux disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and gastro-intestinal cancer. Dietary restriction, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce the risk for many gastro-intestinal diseases. Therefore, the data generated from our study could lead to the identification of therapeutic targets, which can be further researched to develop therapies and interventions to treat gastrointestinal-diseases. 
5.     What’s your most critical piece of research equipment in your lab? Why?
We use a Zoe Fluorescent cell imager to follow enteroid formation as a surrogate for intestinal stem cell function.
6.     What’s your favorite scientific meeting to attend? Why?
The most frequent scientific meeting that I attend is the AGE (American Aging Association) annual meeting. This meeting allows me to network with the top scientist in the aging research field and get exposed to all the latest research in the field.
Core Facilities
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