[Jordan 5023] Hosted by Ken Hsu and Kevin Lynch.
Dr. Cowart is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Co-Director of the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Lipidomics and Pathobiology at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also a Research Health Scientist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina.
Our laboratory studies how plasma lipids affect tissue sphingolipid metabolism. This is important because obesity and diabetes increase plasma lipid concentrations, and this increase has been demonstrated to change sphingolipid profiles in tissues including adipose, liver, skeletal muscle, and heart. In fact, elevation of plasma lipids probably contributes to pathologies observed in these tissues from diabetic patients. We hypothesize that aberrant sphingolipid synthesis promotes tissue pathologies including inflammation, muscle wasting, and cardiac hypertrophy. To address this hypothesis we use a combination of tissue culture and rodent models. Placing rodents on a high-fat diet increases plasma fatty acids and dramatically impacts tissue sphingolipids. These changes precipitate major changes in gene regulation and signaling pathways. We have dissected some of these changes using microarrays, and with collaborators in the department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Epidemiology, we also are actively developing novel bioinformatics strategies for co-analysis of gene expression data from microarrays and sphingolipid levels from lipidomics analysis. These strategies have allowed us to find “needles” in the “haystack” of lipid-mediated cell signaling.