ATLANTA — A Georgia State University nutrition Ph.D. candidate has received a prestigious predoctoral fellowship from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA).
Jessica P. Danh, MS, RD, LD, a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry with a concentration in nutritional sciences in the Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions, received a USDA-NIFA $180,000 three-year predoctoral fellowship for her research training and dissertation work that will examine the therapeutic effects of berries.
The fellowship is part of the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Education and Workforce Development, producing future research leaders in food and agricultural sciences.
Danh’s research investigates the potential therapeutic effects of berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, on intestinal barrier dysfunction in an animal model of hypertension.
"While the intestines are crucial to helping the body absorb essential nutrients from food, they also act as a barrier to prevent toxic compounds, such as foreign antigens and microorganisms, from circulating into the body," Danh said. "When the intestinal barrier is disrupted, more toxic compounds filter into the bloodstream, resulting in inflammation and higher blood pressure."
Berries are rich in polyphenols that are known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may improve the function of the intestinal barrier. What is unknown is whether improving the intestinal barrier function will prevent or mitigate high blood pressure, and Danh is studying the possible association between the two.
Danh is mentored by Dr. Rafaela Feresin, associate professor of nutrition, and will receive training from Andrew Gewirtz, Regents’ Professor and Distinguished University Professor in GSU’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Xiaoxu Zheng, research assistant professor, also in the institute, and Hamed Laroui, chemistry lecturer.