Three Questions for Melanie Gillingham
Melanie Gillingham, Ph.D., R.D., is an associate professor of medical and molecular genetics. She is also director of the Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition program.
March 20, 2015
What’s been the most interesting development in your area in the last two years?
My laboratory has been investigating novel treatments for patients with Fatty Acid Oxidation Disorders, inherited disorders that affect their ability to burn fat in food for energy. Patients suffer from recurrent episodes of severe muscle pain and rhabdomyolysis with or without cardiac involvement. Despite the devastating consequences of these diseases, no patient with a long-chain fatty acid oxidation disorder has developed insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. We have preliminary evidence that having a defect in the long-chain fatty acid oxidation pathway may in fact protect them from developing insulin resistance. If this is true, we may discover some key element of cellular metabolism that could help develop new approaches for treating insulin resistance.
What projects are you currently working on and are there opportunities for fellow faculty to participate?
Dr. Jon Purnell and I were recently awarded a multi-PI R01 to test if patients with long-chain fatty acid oxidation disorders are protected from developing insulin resistance. This is truly a collaborative project. My team from the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics will be recruiting subjects with a fatty acid oxidation disorder and age and sex matched controls. Dr. Purnell’s group and OCTRI’s Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC) will be conducting hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamps to measure insulin sensitivity in vivo and muscle and fat biopsies to measure insulin sensitivity in vitro. Dr. Charles Roberts and Oleg Varlamov at the ONPRC will be measuring the insulin-signaling cascade in the biopsy samples. Changes in tissue lipid deposition will be measuring in the AIRC. We are very excited about this project. Ancillary studies from fellow faculty that look at additional aspects of metabolism in this unique population would be of interest. [Contact her.]
What is the most important aspect of support that OHSU provides to you currently and how would you like this or other support to grow in the future?
One of the essential areas of support for human subjects research at OHSU has been the CTRC. The ability to have a research-focused nurse, bionutritionist and a unit dedicated to research makes complicated human studies such as this one possible. This could not be conducted on a regular hospital floor. In addition, the Advanced Imaging Research Center has been a very powerful tool to measure lipid deposition and metabolism in vivo. The Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics has been very supportive of all aspects of my research from office and lab space to admin support to great collaborators and colleagues.
About Three Questions
This Q&A series features OHSU School of Medicine faculty members talking about their work with the goal of getting to know them and different areas across the school. View more