Visiting scholar Edgar Mendivil conducted research at ECU related to chronic liver disease. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Nutrition lab partners with visiting scholar to research liver disease

April 8, 2014

By Grace Haskin
ECU News Services

Researchers from the Department of Nutrition Science at East Carolina University recently collaborated with a visiting scholar from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico to research chronic liver disease.

Dr. Michael Wheeler, interim associate dean of the College of Human Ecology and associate professor of Nutrition Science, said he was “very pleased with the collaboration” that took place.

“(Visiting scholar) Edgar Mendivil has given the students a new appreciation for the process as well as for the type of laboratory experience they have here at ECU,” he added.

Wheeler’s lab is dedicated to research on chronic liver disease broadly, while each student in his lab focuses on a specific topic related to the disease that fits with his or her particular interests. “All of our projects are interwoven into the theme of chronic liver disease and how it relates to nutrition. Everybody has a small project within this larger context,” said Wheeler.

Since Mendivil was only at ECU for a month, instead of taking on a whole project, he assisted in numerous smaller projects while learning new techniques to apply to his own research. “Edgar has been really helpful because he has been involved in many aspects of all the projects,” said Wheeler.

Mendivil’s doctoral research in molecular biological science focuses on preventing the advancement of liver fibrosis through supplementation of capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers, and sulforaphane, a molecule found in broccoli.

“In Mexico, I am working with a model of liver fibrosis which is similar to a model that they use here in the U.S., so I can compare these models, and I think that this could make a difference,” said Mendivil.

Mendivil said that he enjoyed the convenience of the labs at ECU. “(At my university) we have to go to other labs with the samples,” said Mendivil. “Here, in each bench, they have all the equipment they need to work, so it’s very helpful.”

Sherri Moore, who is earning her doctorate in biomedical science at ECU, said she learned a lot about her own research while working with Mendivil. “It’s helped me reinforce techniques that I learned from Dr. Wheeler and Dr. Ian Hines,” said Moore.

Sylvia Escott-Stump, dietetic internship program director at ECU and former American Dietetic Association president, brought Mendivil to ECU as a visiting scholar. Escott-Stump met Mendivil while she was speaking at the University of Guadalajara, where her textbook is used.

“(Mendivil) advised me of his studies and I was impressed that he was the youngest person to ever receive an award at the Mexican Association of Gastroenterology,” said Escott-Stump. “His university had a grant for him to study in the U.S. and he thought of ECU. His nutrition research fits nicely with what Drs. Wheeler and Hines are doing in our nutrition research lab.”

“I’ve had a great time here with everyone,” said Mendivil, whose time at ECU ended August 1. “It has been very helpful for me.”