Local researcher awarded $2.6M grant to create test for important, little-known nutrient

February 22, 2018

Read the original article by Ken Elkins from the Charlotte Business Journal.


The director of a NC Research Campus center has a $2.6 million grant from a unit of the National Institutes of Health to develop a test to determine the proper levels of a little-known nutrient in humans.

Steven Zeisel, director of the University of North Carolina’s Nutrition Research Institute at the Kannapolis campus, says the presence of the nutrient — called choline — is important to measure. Its absence or low levels causes excessive muscle loss during exercise. It’s also important for pregnant women because they need it for normal brain development in the fetus.

“We need a better lab test that health professionals can use to assess a person’s choline status given the narrow range for healthy intake of choline, the three-fold variation in dietary intake in the U.S. and the effects of common genetic variants on requirements for choline,” Dr. Zeisel says.

Currently, a test for choline isn’t routinely administered to patients, perhaps because a reliable panel of laboratory tests isn’t available.

Balchem Corp., which produces choline for use in foods, funded a pilot study performed by Zeisel. That study found that choline could probably be measured effectively, says Jonathan Bortz, senior director of strategic innovation for Balchem (NASDAQ: BCPC).

“We are committed to supporting high-quality research, and Dr. Zeisel’s work on choline is world class,” Dr. Bortz says.

The grant covers four years of work and is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a unit of the National Institutes of Health.

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