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   from the issue of October 13, 2005

Lecture explores nutrition, genes, health


Vitamins and other nutrients have effects on genes and health. A UNL scientist will explain how this process works, and also shed light on the career path of a scientist in an upcoming Nebraska Lecture at UNL.

UNL biochemist Ruma Banerjee will present the Nebraska Lecture titled
UNL biochemist Ruma Banerjee will present the Nebraska Lecture titled "Genes, Greens and Disease" at 3:30 p.m., Oct. 26 in the auditorium of the Nebrsaka Union. The talk is open to the public. Photo by Erik Stenbakken.

Ruma Banerjee, professor of biochemistry, will lecture at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 26 in the auditorium of the Nebraska Union. The lecture, part of the Chancellor's Distinguished Lecture Series at UNL, is free and open to the public. A reception follows in an adjacent room.

In the Nebraska Lecture, titled "Genes, Greens and Disease," Banerjee said she will discuss "how simple nutrients like vitamins regulate genes and modulate health and disease and the sybaritic pleasures of being a scientist."

Nebraska Lectures feature leading scholars from UNL who translate their work into understandable, non-technical language, allowing lay audiences to learn about research conducted at the university. The lectures are sponsored by the UNL Research Council, the Office of Research and Graduate Studies and the Office of the Chancellor.

Banerjee's research focuses on homocysteine, a substance derived from the amino acid methionine. Homocysteine is essential for health but is toxic at elevated levels, constituting a significant heart disease risk factor. Up to one-third of the people at risk for heart disease have elevated homocysteine levels. It is also correlated with Alzheimer's disease and fetal neural tube defects.

"Cardiovascular disease and homocysteine levels are both influenced by the interactions between many genetic and environmental factors," said Banerjee, who leads a team of scientists who comprise the Redox Biology Center at UNL. The center was established in 2002 with a $10.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Banerjee joined Nebraska's faculty as an assistant professor in 1991 and was promoted to associate professor in 1997 and professor in 2000. Before being named George Holmes university professor, Banerjee was a Willa Cather professor at UNL.



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