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Organization and Goals

The mission of the NORCH is to support and promote a highly productive group of researchers working in key thematic interests, to enable scientific discovery in nutrition and obesity, and to make knowledge of these discoveries available through a robust education and enrichment program.

The NORCH supports investigators working in one of six thematic areas:

  • Cellular metabolism, mitochondrial function, and glucose metabolism
  • Inflammation, adiposopathy, ectopic fat, and cardiovascular disease
  • Appetite regulation, undernutrition, and obesity
  • Nutrients, energy balance, and bone health
  • Nutrients and nutrient metabolism in health and disease
  • Mucosal immunity, gut barrier function, and gut microbiome

The specific goals of the NORCH are as follows:

  • Provide accessible, high quality metabolic phenotyping services
  • Provide access to leading edge technologies for functional imaging of metabolic pathways, tissue composition, and neural circuitry
  • Enable access to expert consultants in bioinformatics, genomics, and cell biology
  • Foster the advancement of junior investigators through access to pilot funding, statistical guidance, and education in nutrition and obesity
  • Increase communication and collaboration within our community of investigators, and disseminate research results to the larger public and scientific communities.

Core Facilities

Genomics and Cell Biology Core

The overall goal of the Genomics and Cell Biology Core is to facilitate the application of cutting-edge genomics, bioinformatics, cell biology, and immunology techniques to nutrition and metabolic research. Core services include

  • Consultative services related to genomics, cell biology, and immunology research design.
  • Provision of space, technical personnel, and specific training and supervision for utilizing specialized techniques and equipment used in cell biology, immunology, and genomics research, including “nanoString”-based transcriptional profiling, assistance in the development of high-content high-throughput assays using automated microscopic imaging, and fluorescent-activated cell sorting.
  • A variety of genomics-related services related to next-generation sequencing,
  • Bioinformatic analysis of various types of high-throughput data, including RNA-Seq, metagenomics, ChIP-Seq, proteomics, microarray data, as well as computational analysis of molecular pathways, networks and phenotypes.

Metabolic Imaging Core

The NORCH Metabolic Imaging Core links a variety of imaging facilities providing services to NORCH investigators who currently require or plan to conduct human studies using state-of-the-art imaging research instrumentation and expertise. The overarching goal of the Metabolic Imaging Core is to provide users with access to cutting edge imaging technology for in-vivo phenotyping of human tissues for nutrition, obesity and metabolism studies. Substantial advances in non-invasive imaging technologies have enabled highly sophisticated assessments of body composition, tissue physiology and brain function that accelerate translational research in human obesity and nutrition. Services include:

  • A variety of advanced imaging services and assistance in the development of protocols for nutrition and obesity studies in need of imaging-based outcomes, including PET, functional and structural neuroimaging, and advanced body composition techniques
  • Consultative services in imaging analysis, including quantitative interpretation of imaging data.
  • A variety of image-guided biopsy techniques for research purposes, including muscle, liver bone marrow and adipose tissue biopsies.
  • Provision of space and technical personnel for specialized imaging analyses.
  • Tutorials and workshops in imaging techniques used in metabolic investigation.

Metabolic Phenotyping Core

Human based nutrition and obesity research studies are generating data at an unparalleled pace. These data permit investigators to generate many disease-related hypotheses; however the sophisticated infrastructure needed to create disease-relevant models and the detailed metabolic technologies necessary to test these hypotheses lie outside the expertise of many individual research groups. The metabolic phenotyping core provides NORCH investigators with access to specialized technology and services not easily accessible to individual laboratories. The overarching goal of the Metabolic Phenotyping Core is to provide users with access to high-quality model creation and detailed metabolic phenotyping. Services include:

  • High quality model generation including genomic targeting and production of metabolically relevant cell types.
  • Detailed metabolic characterization of patient-derived, user-provided, or model generated samples utilizing gene knockdown, immortalized cell culture, IPS derived adipocyte/hepatocyte differentiation, targeted gene expression, seahorse mitochondrial assays, and murine energy expenditure (Sable promethium) techniques
  • Consultation on model development and metabolic characterization projects.
  • Education on techniques provided by the core in model generation and detailed metabolic characterization.

Contact Us


Steven Grinspoon, MD

Professor of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital • Phone: (617) 726-3890






DugganChris Duggan, MD, MPH

Associate Director
Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School • Phone: (617) 355-7612






Administrative Offices

Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital
55 Fruit Street
Boston, MA 02114
. • Phone: (617) 724-9109