CHEN LAB SPOTLIGHT
What are you Driven to Discover?
I would like to see what have not been seen by others. I feel excited when I can read out a story from seemly uninterpretable data.
What is the impact of your research in your field?
I think some results from my research provided novel insights on how chemicals, nutrients, and microbes affect our body, especially metabolism system.
How can people see the impact of your research on everyday life?
I can give two examples from our recent studies. Our analysis of fecal samples from the patients suffering recurrent Clostridium Difficile infection showed that the transplant of fecal preparations from healthy donors recover the production of anti-Clostridium Difficile secondary bile acids in these patients. Our analysis of mice and pigs fed frying oils revealed that oxidized lipids in frying oils can alter the metabolism of tryptophan, an essential amino acid and also a precursor of NAD and serotonin.
What drew you to your field of study?
I started my graduate training in pharmacy school to study how drugs and phytochemicals affect the antioxidant system and redox balance through the regulation of metabolism system. Following this interest in metabolism, I did my postdoc training in the NIH to explore the utilization of metabolomics to examine metabolic transformation of drugs and chemicals inside the body and their influences on endogenous metabolism.
What is your favorite research/lab tool and why?
I use high-resolution mass spectrometers to study food, feed, biofluids, tissues, and wastes. Mass spectrometers have endless applications since everything has a mass.
What is your greatest research accomplishment?
I don’t feel I have achieved anything great yet. What I can say is that I have added a few details in multiple big pictures, such as the identification of a new alcohol metabolite for alcohol research and the role of fatty acid oxidation in cocaine and acetaminophen-elicited liver injury.
What do you hope to accomplish next?
I would like to learn more about the small-molecule metabolites in our bodies and also in our wastes, especially the ones sensitive to the changes in food consumption and the changes in health status.
Who are the members of your lab?
Dana Yao, Lab manager
Yiwei Ma, PhD student
Yuying Zhou, PhD student
John Kurtz, MS student
Qingqing Mao, MS student
Ling Peng, Visiting professor
Yajian Song, Visiting scholar
Are you working on any unique collaborations or projects?
I am a core member of the Integrated Animal Systems Biology team in CFANS (http://animalsystemsbiology.cfans.umn.edu/). I collaborated with the faculty in BBE, CVM, CBS, Medical school, kinesiology, and cancer center within UMN, and the faculty in Miami University.