Texas A&M Student Wins Award from the American Heart Association
Posted August 01, 2013
COLLEGE STATION, TX - Research conducted at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) may
eventually explain and help prevent the chronic health conditions
that often accompany obesity.
Wei Ying, a second-year PhD student in the Veterinary Physiology & Pharmacology
Department (VTPP) at the CVM, won an American Heart Association
Pre-Doctoral Award for his work in this area. The award,
spread out over two years, totals $50,000.
"This is a prestigious award for a graduate student," said
Beiyan Zhou, VTPP Assistant Professor and co-chair of Ying's Ph.D.
"We are excited to see Wei Ying recognized for his talent,
future potential, and the quality of this work in a supportive
research environment," Dr. Eleanor M. Green, Carl B. King Dean of
Veterinary Medicine, said. "This work is important with
implications in many species. This award speaks to his excellence
as well as that of his faculty mentors."
"I'm very lucky," Ying said. "Not many students would have these
Ying, who works in Zhou's lab, came to the CVM from the Animal
Science Department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
He originally wanted to create leaner, higher quality beef, and
that interest led him to his current research into human weight
gain and obesity.
"Obesity is an epidemic worldwide that contributes to adverse
health outcomes, including insulin resistance, type II diabetes
mellitus, obstructive sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, stroke,
hypertension and certain types of cancer (such as colon and breast
cancers), and cardiovascular diseases that are collectively
referred to as metabolic syndrome," said Fuller Bazer, Regents
Fellow, Distinguished Professor & O. D. Butler Chair,
Physiology of Reproduction, Department of Animal Science and
co-chair of Ying's Ph.D. committee.
"Ying's study represents the true spirit of the One Health Initiative," said
Dr. Bhanu Chowdhary, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate
Studies at the CVM. "The interdisciplinary research focus he and
mentors have developed will potentially lead to discoveries that
improve the health of both animals and humans. It is an important
area of research with broad impacts on human and animal health, and
this recognition from the American Heart Association is
Specifically, Ying is focusing on the role of tiny RNA strands
called microRNA that are thought to indirectly lead to metabolic
syndrome. These little pieces of genetic material influence the
abundance of a type of cell called the macrophage. Although
macrophages are a normal and important part of the immune system,
in obese people they seem to have the negative effect of increasing
the inflammation that can lead to insulin resistance and
development of metabolic syndrome.
"The fellowship received by Wei Ying from the American Heart
Association will allow him to conduct in-depth studies on roles of
microRNA 223," Bazer said. MicroRNA 223 can affect the number of a
certain type of macrophage that has the opposite result of most
macrophages; it favors an anti-inflammatory state in white fat
deposits and, in turn, actually reduces the risk of metabolic
Ying's research will also explore how key molecules influencing
the development of obesity are regulated to reduce proliferation of
"white adipocytes" that make up white fat deposits, in which
inflammatory macrophages exist.
The three criteria for the American Heart Association award are
the student's potential, the research environment (including
mentors and institutional support), and the research proposal
(including its significance and originality). Ying has all
"He has outstanding potential," said Stephen Safe, Distinguished
Professor in VTPP and a member of Ying's Ph.D. committee, "and is
guided by Dr. Beiyan Zhou, who is making exciting new discoveries
about the role of non-coding RNAs in the cardiovascular
Bazer, Safe, and Guoyao Wu, who is a Distinguished Professor in
Animal Nutrition in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,
wrote letters of reference for the award and act as Ying's
"These three distinguished professors give me so much support,"
Ying said. "I'm very grateful to them."
"What he's doing is original," Zhou said. "After all, the
discovery of microRNA was only about 10 years ago."
"When you are doing something you like, you don't mind spending
16 hours a day working on it," Ying said. "I absolutely love what
I'm doing. I'm very proud to have won this award."
Ultimately, he hopes to develop improved therapies to decrease
inflammation and insulin resistance in obese individuals, which
would then prevent them from developing metabolic syndrome.
For more information about the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our
website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook.
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
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