Antentor O. Hinton Jr., PhD, Burroughs Wellcome and Ford Fellow postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, received a Basic Science Research Award during the NIDDK’s Network of Minority Health Research Investigators (NMHRI) Midwest Regional Workshop. Hinton’s presentation aims to identify the insulin signals that regulate the gene OPA1 in the skeletal muscle.
His secondary mentor, Renata Pereira, PhD, research assistant professor in Endocrinology and Metabolism, found that reduction in OPA1 expression in skeletal muscle results in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response and FGF21 secretion (Pereira, R. et. al., 2017 EMBO). In an extension of Dr. Pereira’s research, Hinton predicted that there was an association between the loss of OPA1 and an increase in ER-Mitochondrial Contact sites.
“Notably, mitochondrial endoplasmic reticulum contact sites (MERCs) are characterized as specialized membranes that are enriched with specific proteins believed to be important for calcium flux, lipid transfer, and mitochondria morphology,” Hinton said. “This is an important observation that provides a plausible mechanism linking altered mitochondrial dynamics with the activation of the ER stress response pathway.”
The NMHRI encourages racial and ethnic minority groups to explore careers in biomedical fields of diabetes, endocrinology, metabolism, digestive disease, nutrition, kidney, urologic, and hematologic diseases. Every year, the NMRI Midwest Regional Workshop works to eliminate racial and ethnic barriers in the health system by building opportunities and professional connections for minority investigators.
“I was flabbergasted about the amount of faculty members and senior staff that cared about my career outcomes,” Hinton said of the conference where his presentation was recognized. “Additionally, I was thoroughly impressed by the keynote speaker, the research talks, and clinical research talks. I look forward to having long-term collaborations with some of the individuals that I met at the conference.”