Dallas lab funded to examine survival of pathogen-specific human milk immunoglobulins in the infant gut

Our lab will be embarking on a new project that will explore the survival of milk immunoglobulins in the infant gut, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We will be partnering with Dr. Brian Scottoline at Oregon Health and Sciences University to collect infant digestive samples within the Doernbecher Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. These samples will be analyzed via peptidomics, immunoaffinity assays and functional testing to determine the survival of pathogen-specific milk immunoglobulins in the infant's digestive tract. The outcome of this research will inform therapeutic approaches for reducing risk of infections to infants living in regions endemic with diarrheal disease.

Posted on November 19, 2017 .

Zoha Ahmad receives Undergraduate Research Award Program scholarship for 2016-2017 to research breast milk proteases

Zoha Ahmad, a junior in the Nutrition: Dietetics program at Oregon State University, joined our lab in December after she was awarded the Undergraduate Research Award Program scholarship to research breast milk proteases. Zoha's research interests are in nutritional management of infants and children.

With the help of Carly Robertson and five other undergraduate interns, Zoha has been examining the effects of different heat treatments on protease activity in breast milk. Currently, milk banks pasteurize breast milk donations but the effect of this heat treatment on protease activity hasn’t been studied. Zoha, and others in the lab group, were able to create an experiment plan and identify the best research methods to determine whether protease levels change with current pasteurization practices. The work will examine alternative treatment methods to ensure microbiological safety of donor milk while retaining more active enzymes. These enzymes may be important in helping the premature infant digest milk proteins. 

Zoha has also been helping Veronique Demers-Mathieu with her research on breast milk digestion in preterm and term infants, and presented the findings at the Oregon State University Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence poster fair on May 19th, 2017.

Zoha’s goal is to gain a dietetic internship with a clinical concentration in pediatrics to become a Registered Dietitian and use her knowledge and research skills from the lab to help infants in need through nutrition intervention. Her future goals include pursuing a graduate degree and becoming a physician’s assistant to further help preterm and term infants get the right start in life so they can grow up to be healthy adults.

Posted on June 2, 2017 .

Kelly Hollenbeck awarded URSA Engage research grant to build a database comparing amniotic fluid and breast milk nourishment

Kelly Hollenbeck, a first year honors student at Oregon State University, majoring in bioengineering and pre-medicine was awarded an Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and the Arts (URSA) Engage research award to work in the Dallas lab starting in January 2017. URSA Engage is designed to provide first and second year students the opportunity to pursue research under the guidance of an OSU mentor.

Kelly’s interest in gaining more experience with scientific research, especially research concerning human health and nutrition, led her to apply to the URSA Engage program with the Dallas lab.  Since she is a current bioengineering student interested in a future career in healthcare, working in the Dallas lab allows her to apply scientific and problem-solving skills from engineering to research in a health-related field.

In the lab, Kelly is building a database comparing amniotic fluid and breast milk on a nutritional basis, including comparing the amounts of each component and how each component varies with time. The goal of this work is to better understand how nourishment of the fetus differs from that of the premature infant, which could lead to new insights into improving premature infant nourishment. Upon completion of her URSA project, Kelly will present her work at Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence (CUE) in Spring 2018. After graduation, Kelly hopes to continue to medical school to become a medical doctor.  

Posted on June 2, 2017 .

Søren Drud Nielsen and Veronique Demers-Mathieu join the lab!

Two post-doctoral scholars—Søren Drud Nielsen and Veronique Demers-Mathieu—have joined the Dallas lab. Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Demers-Mathieu are uniquely qualified to contribute to our investigation of milk proteins and infant digestive health. We are happy to welcome them to the lab.

Søren Drud Nielsen

Dr. Nielsen is deeply interested in the health impacts of food. He completed both his M.S. and his Ph.D. in Food Science at Aarhus University in Denmark. His research focused on the effect of casein-derived peptides on intestinal cell migration induction and the ability of milk-derived free fatty acids to regulate proteins involved in fat metabolism in the infant intestine. 

Recently, Dr. Nielsen examined the quality of lactose-reduced UHT milk during storage. He discovered that the lactase enzyme preparations used to reduce the lactose have contaminating enzymes that are active in degrading milk proteins, leading to a bitter taste developing during elongated storage. 
Dr. Nielsen’s research experiences have provided him with expertise in cell culture, real time qPCR, proteomics and peptidomics. 

At Oregon State University, Dr. Nielsen is applying his skills in mass spectrometry, bioinformatics and statistics to study infant digestion. He chose to work in the Dallas lab because he is interested in the health impacts of food on humans, and examining impaired digestion of preterm infants seemed like a perfect window into these larger questions. He is excited to be applying state-of-the-art mass spectrometry to these problems!  

Dr. Nielsen enjoys lab research because it allows him to pursue his own scientific questions, mentor students and collaborate with researchers across the world. He hopes to build his own research group to study the impact of nutrients on inflammation, allergies, and impaired digestion and also work as a research project leader in industry.

Veronique Demers-Mathieu

Dr. Demers-Mathieu is passionate about microbiology, dairy science and molecular medicine. She completed her B.Sc. in Food Science and Chemistry and her M.S. in Biochemistry at Laval University in Quebec. She then completed her Ph.D. research with the Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Center, part of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute and Laval University. 

Dr. Demers-Mathieu research examined the viability of new probiotics in low fat yogurt and cheddar cheese production and determined the effects of these probiotic foods on inflammation and obesity. She discovered that probiotics do not necessarily need to be viable to have anti-inflammatory effects and that probiotic milk consumption can lead to weight loss and adipose tissue reduction in mice.  

In the Dallas lab, Dr. Demers-Mathieu is applying her expertise in microbiology and milk biology to help identify the functions of milk’s native proteases in the infant gut. She is currently developing affinity purification methods to extract these proteases and test the function of milk with and without these enzymes in animal models. These experiments will help determine how milk proteases affect protein digestion and microbial growth and activity in the infant gut. 

To Dr. Demers-Mathieu, human milk is a goldmine for discovery of novel bioactive compounds for immunological and microbial modulation. Dr. Demers-Mathieu also loves sharing her research passions through teaching and mentoring. After her post-doc, Dr. Demers-Mathieu plans to become a research scientist at a research center or university. 

Welcome Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Demers-Mathieu! 

Posted on February 29, 2016 .

Carly Robertson awarded Undergraduate Research Awards Program scholarship to examine native milk enzymes in the Dallas Lab

Carly Robertson is a third-year undergraduate nutrition major at Oregon State University who joined our research group in January. Her interest in research and furthering her education outside the classroom drove her to apply for the Undergraduate Research Awards Program scholarship. The scholarship supports students in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences gain research experience outside of the classroom. Carly wants to make an impact on the community by helping infants and children receive the healthy start they deserve through nutrition research and interventions.

In the lab, Carly is determining the effects of human milk enzymes in infant digestion. Human milk contains a wide and complex array of enzymes. Our group previously showed that a class of these enzymes, proteases, begins to break down milk proteins in the mammary gland, releasing thousands of unique protein fragments that may have functional effects. However, the role of these enzymes in infant health remains completely unknown. Carly is testing a hypothesis that these proteases assist in the digestion of milk proteins within the infant. Specifically, she is surveying the literature, assembling extraction and analytical protocols, and performing enzyme extractions, protease assays and enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). This work will help determine how milk’s native proteases affect infant digestive health. Carly will be presenting this research, alongside her undergraduate research colleagues, at the Oregon State University Celebration of Excellence in mid-May 2016.

Carly plans to continue working with the Dallas Lab through her senior year at OSU. After graduation, she wants to become a registered dietitian and work in clinical dietetics. She also plans to pursue a graduate degree and carry out community nutrition research to develop programs and products that increase diet quality in populations that suffer from food insecurity. 

We are so thrilled to have Carly in the lab!

Posted on February 13, 2016 .

Dr. Dallas Accepts Assistant Professor Position at Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences

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Dr. Dallas will begin as an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences starting in January, 2016. He will conduct research in the Nutrition Program and will be initially funded by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Dallas is currently accepting applications for post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. Contact Dr. Dallas at dave.dallas@oregonstate.edu for further information.

Posted on July 21, 2015 .

UC Davis Foods for Health Institute Reports on Dr. Dallas's Research and NIH Pathway to Independence Award

Posted on July 17, 2015 .