About Us
Join a Study!
Consumer News
Education & Training
Information Resources

USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine



Richard J. Schanler, M.D.
Dr. Schanler’s research focuses on clinical aspects of feeding premature infants human milk. Current investigations address the potential protection from infection and necrotizing enterocolitis afforded by human milk, the effect of stress on lactation performance, and the growth and body composition of premature infants during the first few years after hospital discharge.

Robert J. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Robert Schwartz conducts research focused on defining the molecular basis underlying the establishment and maintenance of skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle differentiation. He has devoted considerable attention to Nkx2-5, a transcription factor instrumental in the patterning of the embryonic heart. Dr. Schwartz notes that the heart appears to develop as a modular organ, such that a distinct transcriptional regulatory program controls each anatomical region. Consistent with this notion, the heart tube can be divided into segments that form the atria, left ventricle, right ventricle, and ventricular outflow tract. Precursors of these regions of the heart appear to originate from separate lineages, which develop according to their positions along the anteroposterior axis of the embryo. Recent studies conducted by Dr. Schwartz have revealed cis-regulatory elements that direct cardiac transcription specifically in the left or right ventricular chambers and atria, and even within subdomains within the chambers. Whether this regional specificity of transcription is important for the physiologic and functional differences of the chambers of the adult heart, and how these transcriptional territories are established and maintained, are issues of intense interest to Dr. Schwartz.

Partha Sen, Ph.D.
Dr. Partha Sen is the director of the Child Health Research Center (CHRC) Molecular Core Laboratory. The laboratory provides DNA sequencing and DNA synthesis services to the CHRC awardees and their mentors and Baylor faculty at large. Dr. Sen is also involved in research related to alveolar capillary dysplasia (ACD). This is a genetic disorder which causes misalignment of lung blood vessels, and is also characterized by a severe reduction of capillaries in the lungs of the patient. The relentless course of the disease culminates in the death of the neonate despite intensive therapy. The inheritance of the disease is presumed to be autosomal recessive. The study is being done in collaboration with Dr. C. Langston, Department of Pathology, Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr. B. Bejjani, Department of Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine. The primary goal of the research project is to identify the causative gene for this human disorder.

Robert J. Shulman, M.D.
Dr. Shulman is investigating the factors regulating the development of gastrointestinal function in the premature infant. He is interested particularly in carbohydrate digestion and absorption and the interaction of carbohydrates with other nutrients both as facilitators and potential inhibitors of digestion and absorption of other nutrients. The long-term goal is to understand and, thereby, be able to treat feeding intolerance in premature infants. These data also can be applied to treat infants with short bowel syndrome. Most recently, he has been broadening his research efforts, and has initiated studies to understand the factors that contribute to health care-seeking behaviors in children with recurrent abdominal pain.

Roman J. Shypailo, B.S.
The unprecedented growth of technology during the past decade has created challenges for researchers. Powerful computers and data acquisition equipment enable rapid accumulation of information that requires processing. The CNRC Body Composition Laboratory houses sophisticated instruments designed to measure the elemental composition of the human body using nuclear-based techniques. Each instrument is in a dynamic state of evolution. New measurement systems are being developed, including a multiparameter whole-body counter capable of isolating and measuring a signal coming from a specific site in the body, and a portable 40 K counter for use in a hospital setting. Coordinating these efforts and incorporating new technology are the primary focus of Mr. Shypailo's work.

C. Wayne Smith, M.D.
Dr. C. Wayne Smith, who is the head of the Leukocyte Biology Section of the Pediatrics Department as well as a CNRC researcher, has a multifaceted research focus involving the roles of neutrophils in host resistance to infection and tissue injury under conditions of inappropriate inflammation. Dr. Smith is actively involved in a number of projects with other researchers. He works with Dr. Michele Mariscalco in a project on neonatal neutrophil function; with Dr. Mark Entman of Baylor’s Department of Medicine on neutrophil-mediated injury to myocardium; with Dr. Christie Ballantyne on the phenotypes of mice with CD18 subunit deficiency; with Dr. Jim Smolen on the influence of stress on leukocyte functions; and with Dr. Alan Burns on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neutrophil transendothelial migration. Dr. Smith also is collaborating with Dr. Hartmut Jaeschke of the University of Arkansas on neutrophil-mediated liver damage. Further, Dr. Smith is working with CNRC researcher Dr. Harry Mersmann on the potential role of leukocytes in the development of obesity.

E. O’Brian Smith, Ph.D.
Dr. E. O’Brian Smith provides statistical design, analysis, and teaching support to the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, the General Clinical Research Center, the Pediatrics Department, and Baylor College of Medicine investigators. This support includes teaching statistical methods, development of grant applications, the design of research protocols, statistical analysis, interpretation, and manuscript preparation. His support services range from basic consultation to extensive involvement in a project.

Janice E. Stuff, Ph.D.
Dr. Stuff's broad area of interest is that of nutritional epidemiology and the role of nutrition in chronic diseases and public health problems. A focus area is research on methodologies to assess dietary intakes in populations. Currently, Dr. Stuff collaborates with the USDA/ARS Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Initiative. The initial purpose of this initiative is to measure the nutrition and health status of individuals and communities in the Lower Mississippi Delta region. Specifically, Dr. Stuff has helped in efforts to develop and validate dietary methodology in the Lower Delta, which now will be applied to assess dietary intakes in cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. Other interests include the impact of food insecurity on the nutritional requirements and health status of children; nutritional interventions for children in high-risk, low-income areas; and the application of research findings on mineral and caloric requirements of children to interpreting nationwide nutrition surveys and databases.

Agneta L. Sunehag, M.D., Ph.D.
The focus of Dr. Sunehag’s research is carbohydrate metabolism in infants and children. In particular, she is interested in the metabolism of very premature infants during their first days of life. The aim of her studies is to determine how these infants utilize their gluconeogenic pathway to produce glucose from parenterally administered lipid and amino acid solutions. The ultimate goal of these studies is to optimize the composition of neonatal parenteral nutrition solutions to prevent both hypo- and hyperglycemia, while providing a sufficient energy intake for normal growth. Her other major research interest is to determine the effects of dietary carbohydrate and fat intakes on parameters of glucose metabolism, particularly insulin sensitivity, in obese and nonobese children. The aim of these studies is to determine whether the macronutrient content of the diet affects the development of insulin resistance and, thus, the risk of type II diabetes, and whether obese children differ from nonobese with regard to metabolic adaptation to changes in dietary carbohydrate and fat content.


Ignatia B. Van den Veyver, M.D.
Rett syndrome is caused by mutations in a gene on the X chromosome named MECP2. This gene encodes methyl-CpG-binding protein 2, which is the molecular link between DNA methylation and suppression of transcription of genes with methylation at their promoters. Based on the discovery that this mechanism is at the basis of this devastating neurodevelopmental disorder, Dr. Van den Veyver hypothesizes that DNA methylation may play a role in the proper downregulation of certain genes during development. There is some evidence that DNA methylation can be influenced by methyl donor-enriched diets containing substances such as folic acid and betaine. Hence, she is investigating in cultured cells and in laboratory mice whether this treatment can alter DNA methylation and gene expression. This is not only important with regard to conditions such as Rett syndrome, but may also provide a better understanding of the role of such agents in other prenatal-onset disorders and birth defects, for example, in the mechanism by which folic acid may prevent neural tube defects.

William W. Wong, Ph.D.
Dr. Wong’s research focuses on the treatment and prevention of obesity and chronic diseases. He is currently the principal investigator of a Texas Department of Health-funded project to determine the prevalence and risk factors of childhood obesity in Texas. He is also the principal investigator of a phase 3 clinical trial funded by Pharmacia & Upjohn to test the safety and efficacy of a new drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Further, Dr. Wong is the project director of a USDA-funded, multicenter study aimed at determining the safety, efficacy, and optimal dosage of soy isoflavones to prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

Issa F. Zakeri, Ph.D.
Dr. Zakeri’s research has focused on the analysis, modeling and understanding of data consisting of multiple measurements on each observational unit and data that accrue over time. His current research interest is Nutrimetrics, which involves the application of statistical methods to problems in nutrition. The goal is to advance, develop, and apply more accurate and computationally flexible statistical techniques to analyze and better understand many complex problems in nutrition, particularly behavioral nutrition. The research program involves theoretical studies as well as computational methods in many branches of statistics, particularly analysis of high-dimensional and longitudinal data.


Annual Reports


CNRC Home | BCM Public Site | BCM Intranet | CNRC Intranet | Privacy Notices
© 2004 Baylor College of Medicine
USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center
1100 Bates Street, Houston, Texas 77030

Phone: (713) 798-7002 | Fax: (713) 798-7098
Houston, TX 77030

Contact Webmaster