Even though hundreds of study participants and numerous researchers have taken advantage of the Human Research Core in the UNC Nutrition Research Institute, it is one of the best kept secrets on the NC Research Campus (NCRC) in Kannapolis, NC. But now that Jomari Torres, MD, is the medical director, the HRC will not be a secret for long, especially to those interested in conducting nutrigenomic studies.
Torres joined the NRI earlier this year to promote the services and capabilities of the HRC to companies, medical practitioners and researchers on and off the NCRC. Her job is made easier by the fact that the HRC has the only human whole-room calorimeter in the Carolinas.
“How much energy is a subject consuming? How many calories is he burning? Minute-by-minute readings make obtaining ultra-accurate records of energy output and intake possible,” explained Torres as she described how accurately the whole room calorimeter measures energy expenditure.
The HRC also offers a Body Composition Laboratory to record body fat composition, bone density, and body mass index (BMI). The Metabolic Rate Assessment Laboratory includes a dynamometer that can be used for strength testing and rehabilitation of large muscle groups. There are consultation rooms, exam rooms, nutrition assessment, diet design, clinical services such as phlebotomy and sample processing, and a metabolic research kitchen for diet intervention studies.
“People are starting to see us as an asset,” Torres said. “I have more people coming up to me asking about the nutrigenomics studies with human subjects that they want to conduct using the HRC, and that’s exciting.”
Her interest in assisting scientists in the advancement of their nutrition research stems from her medical career, which started in the US Army. She later worked as a contract pediatrician, and, after moving to North Carolina, as a physician with Carolinas Medical Center. She is passionate about nutrigenomics and the prevention of disease through nutrition science. In the future, she plans to research childhood obesity.
“The HRC allows scientists to conduct human trials in a safe and professionally supervised environment to further our understanding of disease mechanisms and possible treatments,” she said. “The end goal is preventing disease and promoting human health now and in future generations.”
The North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis is a 350-acre research center located just north of Charlotte, NC. Corporations, universities and healthcare organizations have forged a public-private partnership that is transforming science at the intersection of human health, nutrition and agriculture.
- Research Center: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Featured NORC Member(s): Jomari Torres, MD