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Obesity and Stress Research Addressed in One Health Grand Challenge Project

Posted October 27, 2014

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Enhancing the health and well-being of animals and humans through the alleviation of chronic illnesses and conditions is the goal of an innovative project recently awarded funding through the competitive One Health Grand Challenge proposal process. The project’s team will approach this objective by addressing the adverse physical, societal, and economic effects of these stressful, chronic conditions, including metabolic dysregulation and obesity.

The One Health Grand Challenge was offered as an opportunity for Texas A&M University faculty members to plan and implement a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach improving the lives of all species—human and animal—by addressing health as well as the connections between health and both natural and man-made environments.

The One Health Grand Challenge faculty advisory committee identified four major One Health research themes and implemented a plan to bring together teams to propose research initiatives under these themes.

The interdisciplinary team includes faculty from the Texas A&M College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (COALS), Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Pharmacy, Texas A&M College of Liberal Arts, the Dwight Look College of Engineering (ENG), and the Texas A&M College of Education & Human Development (EDU). They included Tom Welsh, principal investigator (COALS, CVM, AgriLife Research), Robert Alaniz (TAMHSC), Gordon Carstens (COALS, AgriLife Research), Mahua Choudhury (TAMHSC-Kingsville), Noah Cohen (CVM), Kevin Curley (CVM), Sherecce Fields (Liberal Arts), Kianfar Kiavash (ENG), Narendra Kumar (TAMHSC-Kingsville), Sara Lawhon (CVM), John Lawler (EDU), Jeff Liew (EDU), Dai Lu (TAMHSC-Kingsville), Lisako McKyer (EDU), Mary Meagher (Liberal Arts), Cynthia Meininger (TAMHSC-Temple), Peter Murano (COALS), Dave Potter (TAMHSC-Kingsville), Ron Randel (AgriLife Research-Overton), Penny Riggs (COALS, AgriLife Research), Loren Skow (CVM), Jane Welsh (CVM), Keith Young (TAMHSC-Temple), and Beiyan Zhou (CVM).

“The faculty in our college are well-positioned to facilitate progress at Texas A&M in this area.  They have the training, skills, and abilities to integrate the environment, animal, and human aspects of a problem to solve the complex but very important grand challenges facing our society, such as improving our health,” said Dr. Bill Dugas, Acting Vice Chancellor for Agriculture and Life Sciences and Acting Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The focus of this initiative is to further develop the understanding of genetic and environmental factors, including stress, that can disrupt metabolic functions in humans and animals, which may lead to a variety of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes, and a reduction in productivity.

“There are numerous undesirable conditions that can arise when an animal or person cannot maintain a healthy balance,” said Welsh. “Our approach includes four separate projects, each of which will investigate environmental and genetic factors influencing the regulation of metabolic health. By learning how to manage these factors, we will be able to reduce susceptibility to chronic disease in humans and animals, and also reduce stress on animals that affects their productivity.”

Two pilot projects will focus on behavior and stress related to metabolism. These will include the investigation of prenatal stress on calves and, separately, will examine epigenetic changes in human patients diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Two additional projects include work to determine environmental factors that influence metabolism, as well as the role that microbes in the body (the microbiome) play in metabolic regulation.

“The proposal submitted by Dr. Welsh and this team of investigators holds great promise in creating new understanding of the relationship between the environment, genetics, stress, and the cascade of chronic diseases that result from stress on the metabolic system,” said Dr. Michael Chaddock, assistant dean for One Health and Strategic Initiatives at the CVM. “Interdisciplinary approaches such as this that advance knowledge that will improve global health is at the very core of the definition of One Health.”

The One Health Initiative was started at Texas A&M in 2011 to be a collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain sustainable optimal health for the ecosystem. It's driven by agents of change which include, but are not limited to, population growth; nutritional, agricultural and trade practices; globalization; shift in land use; accelerated urbanization; deforestation; encroachment on wildlife; and climate change.

“This research program represents well what the One Health Grand Challenge at Texas A&M University is all about,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at the CVM. “Facilitated by Dr. Michael Chaddock, investigators came together from across campus to form the research team dedicated to finding extraordinary solutions for these diseases of importance to Texas and beyond. Equally impressive is the funding of this project, which was also a team approach. Dr. Glen Laine, vice president for research at Texas A&M, matched voluntary contributions from the involved colleges to fully fund this challenge proposal.”


About the Texas A&M One Health Initiative: The initiative is dedicated to the discovery, development, communication, and application of knowledge in a wide range of academic and professional fields providing the highest quality undergraduate, graduate and professional programs to prepare students to assume roles in leadership, responsibility and service to society. It builds on the strength of the university and the state of Texas from discovery to application and commercialization allowing for the discovery, learning and applied research to meet societal needs. Learn more about the One Health Initiative at


Contact Information:
Megan Palsa
979-421-3121 (cell)

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