Janet C. Onishi


Research Interests:

As an independent research scientist at Rutgers University, I have an opportunity to begin research in an area where new opportunities to improve human and animal health through studies involving diet and the gut microbiome are evolving. Research by numerous investigators has now led to new concepts that microorganisms in the intestinal tract contribute towards the development of an inflammatory disease such as obesity and metabolic syndrome (MetSyn). Various hypotheses are currently forming the basis of research to elucidate how microbes might contribute towards the development of the MetSyn.

My interest in this research was started with studies of equinehorse laminitis funded by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station through the State Equine Initiative. Laminitis is a crippling inflammatory disease affecting the laminae tissue in the hoof. Horse owners commonly associate the development of the disease with the rapid consumption of pasture grasses rich in carbohydrates or inadvertent over-feeding of grain products. Based on results from an equine model of acute laminitis, multiple laboratories have shown that the gut microbiome rapidly changes when the horse is given a bolus infusion of cornstarch or oligofructan. Interestingly, some of the physiologic changes in the horse in this model are similar to those found in patients with MetSyn. How this rapid change in bacterial populations leads to a systemic inflammatory response and the biochemical alterations in the laminae associated with foundering remains unclear. Results of my studies will be published shortly but support the hypothesis that microbial derived metabolites produced in the gut contribute towards the development of laminitis. The known microbial derived metabolites of interest are endotoxin and vasoactive amines.