For three decades, the research program of K Sreekumaran Nair, M.D., Ph.D., has focused on the role of energy metabolism and the importance of altered protein turnover in diabetes and aging. Energy metabolism studies are performed mainly in mitochondria isolated from skeletal muscle biopsy samples. Specific methods include mitochondrial respiration, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production rates, oxidant production, mitochondrial DNA abundance and mutations.
Dr. Nair's research team also investigates the impact of various interventions of the regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis. Analytical methods such as mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy allow the team to study metabolic consequences of altered energy and protein metabolism. Much of the team's work involves the use of stable isotope tracers to label proteins in vivo and study synthesis and accumulation of individual proteins. Post-translational modifications, especially carbonylation and deamidation, also are studied by mass spectrometry.
- Causes of altered protein turnover. Current projects address whether accumulation of damaged and modified proteins is related to altered protein turnover, factors that may contribute to comorbidities such as insulin resistance and cardiovascular complications.
- Genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes. Dr. Nair also is keenly interested in the underlying causes of type 2 diabetes in populations with genetic predisposition to the disease as they age. His team is investigating the relationships between protein turnover, mitochondrial function, insulin resistance and physical function.
Significance to patient care
Dr. Nair uses animal models to address the questions emerging from human studies that cannot be answered in human experiments.