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In the News: Research in the Department of Clinical Nutrition
Rush Nutrition Faculty is Awarded the first United States Department of Agriculture-funded Grant at Rush University Medical Center
March 16, 2012
Dr. Heather Rasmussen, assistant professor and registered dietitian in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at Rush University recently received her first federal grant. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will fund a 3-year clinical trial designed to test the effectiveness of a synbiotic combination of a bacteria (Bifidobacterium adolescentis strain) and a prebiotic (galacto-oligosaccharide) compared to a conventional synbiotic.
Dr. Rasmussen was overjoyed when she found out she received this funding, “As this is my first federally-funded grant, I was elated. It is currently difficult to obtain funding, so I was very appreciative of the great team we put together to write a fundable grant.”
This study is a multi-center collaboration, and Dr. Rasmussen is responsible for research activities related to the clinical trial on-site at Rush University Medical Center. Her and her team (Ali Keshavarzian, MD and collaborators at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) hypothesize that the proposed synbiotic will improve the intestinal barrier function in obese individuals and thus prevent inflammation caused by bacteria in the gut (endotoxemia) and metabolic inflammation.
If we show that our synbiotic does improve the intestinal barrier function in our subjects, we hope to test further systemic effects by looking at markers of metabolic disease. We may then choose to eventually make this synbiotic available for consumers if it proves to be beneficial for health,” says Dr. Rasmussen regarding the potential impact of her study.
Dr. Rasmussen recognizes Rush’s Research Mentor Program as a key contributor for her success. She obtained input from her mentor throughout the grant writing process. Her advice to other young researchers looking for funding is,“It is important to collaborate and develop a team of researchers and clinicians that are strong in their specialty. As funding is currently difficult to obtain, researchers should not be discouraged if they are not funded on the first attempt; be open to various sources of funding other than NIH such as foundations and industry

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