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Nancy E. Moran Lab

Research Projects


Research Projects


“Mechanisms of Carotenoid Transport and Interactions with Nutrient Absorption,” NIH/NCCIH

The goal of this research study is to determine which transport related proteins are involved in tomato carotenoid absorption and biodistribution. We are using in vitro and in vivo models to investigate the roles of SCARB1, CD36, and ABCA1 in lycopene and phytoene uptake and efflux from absorptive enterocytes and prostate epithelial cells. Furthermore, we are determining whether lycopene and phytoene compete with other fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals such as tocopherols (vitamin E) and beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) for cellular uptake. Supported by The National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Heath and Office of Dietary Supplements, R00 AT008576.


“Genetic Interactions and Mechanisms Underlying Potential Anti-cancer Activity of Lycopene,” USDA/ARS

Consumption of and blood levels of lycopene have been epidemiologically associated with a reduced risk of several cancers, notably prostate cancer. However, epidemiologic associations cannot prove cause and effect and provide no insight into the mechanisms by which lycopene impacts physiology. The specific goals of this project are to determine how common genetic variants of a carotenoid metabolizing enzyme (BCO1) change the ability of liver and prostate cells to accumulate or metabolize lycopene and to determine if lycopene impacts the metabolism of cholesterol in liver and prostate cells as a potential mechanism of cancer prevention. These studies may provide insight into how nutrition and genetics interact to modify chronic disease risk. Supported by United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, CRIS 3092-51000-056-03S.


“Maternal Dietary Carotenoid Absorption, Metabolism, and Transfer to Infants during Lactation,” Baylor College of Medicine

Infants are born with poor vitamin A stores and rely on breast milk to not only meet their daily vitamin A needs for growth, vision, and immune function, but also rely on breast milk to build up their stores of vitamin A. Breast milk provides vitamin A in two forms: pre-formed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids which can be converted to vitamin A after absorption. In order to define the role of maternal carotenoid intake on breast milk carotenoid content, we will study maternal beta-carotene and lycopene absorption from tomatoes, metabolism, transfer to breast milk, and transfer to the infant. This valuable information will be used to determine what amount of maternal carotenoid intake is needed to support the vitamin A and carotenoid needs of the nursing infants, and novel insights necessary for developing precise and science-based dietary recommendations for lactating mothers. Supported by The BCM Junior Faculty Seed Funding Award from the Caroline Wiess Law Fund for Research in Molecular Medicine.


"Non-invasive marker of infant dietary intake," Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital

During “complementary feeding” (6-12 months of age), caregivers are encouraged to introduce infants to a variety of foods so that they grow accustomed to different foods and can meet their nutrient requirements. However, it is very hard for researchers, doctors, and community organizations to accurately and rapidly determine what infants actually eat during complementary feeding and to subsequently intervene to promote a well-rounded diet. The goal of this project is to develop a non-invasive skin measure as a biomarker of a well-rounded diet in infants so that researchers, doctors, and community organizations can rapidly assess infants' dietary patterns. Supported by the Baylor College of Medicine Pediatric Pilot Award.

Learn more about volunteering for this study.