Rebecca Simonian, Masters student

Nutritional Sciences
University of Toronto

Rebecca Simonian is a second year Masters of Nutritional Sciences student under the supervision of Dr. G. Harvey Anderson at the University of Toronto. She previously completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Toronto majoring in Physiology and Human Biology. Her initial interest in nutritional sciences and was inspired through her independent research project in the lab of Dr. Anderson which aimed to identify the effects of excess methyl nutrient intakes during pregnancy on later life metabolic health outcomes using the Wistar rat model. As an extension of this research, her graduate project focuses on understanding the role of the methyl nutrient folate on energy balance regulation using a novel genetic zebrafish model of folate deficiency that she co-developed. For her continued research efforts, she has been awarded the NSERC Canadian Graduate Scholarship award and has received several recognitions as an emerging leader in her field by the American Society for Nutrition.

Genetic disruption in folic acid metabolism and energy balance regulation during embryonic development in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

The overall goal of this project is to identify the interaction between methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (mthfr) genotype and folic acid (FA) supplementation during embryonic development on metabolic dysregulation using a novel zebrafish mthfr model. In this presentation, we show using the zebrafish, that mthfr and FA exposure are modifiers of energy balance regulation during embryonic development. Theis data highlights an opportunity to leverage this model to better define the molecular mechanisms underlying mthfr and folate-related deficiencies and provide high throughput comparisons of nutrient-gene interactions in utero. This presentation will begin with a brief background on folate, MTHFR deficiency, and the zebrafish as a model of folate metabolism. Subsequent sections will outline our experimental design and research methodologies including measuring food intake and energy expenditure in zebrafish larvae. Lastly, we will report our novel findings and important implications as well as expand on some challenges and advantages of our pre-clinical model with future directions.