Van Andel Institute tackles metabolism’s role in health

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new program launched by the Van Andel Research Institute is taking a deep dive into metabolism and the major role it plays in our health.

When it comes to the mysteries of the human body, there’s one thing we all have in common: We all eat.

But what happens after that is much more complex.

“What we’re trying to distill (is) what we eat, how it’s processed and how that contributes to our biology from a very strong scientific background,” explained Dr. Russell Jones, who leads the program.

Inside the walls of the Van Andel Institute, this team of scientists has come together to tackle not only how metabolism and nutrition affects our health now, but how it will affect the next generation.

“I think metabolism was taken for granted for a long time for just being part of the body that runs in the background, creating energy, creating building blocks,” said Dr. Connie Krawczyk,

Krawczyk and Russell, who are married, moved from Canada to Grand Rapids to be part of this project. They’ve researched metabolism, the immune system, cancer and epigenetics.

“We’re trying to better understand how our choices — the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink — impact our health now and for future generations,” said Jones.

What they know is what we eat affects all of the organs in our body, and that affects our health.

Team member Dr. Heidi Lempradl is studying how food choices parents make can affect their children. She does that research using drosophila, commonly known as fruit flies.

The flies’ lifespans are short, allowing for swifter research.

What happens inside the labs of the Van Andel Research Institute is a lot of what you would expect – experts bent over test tubes and pipettes,

But there’s also a lot of collaboration, conversation and questions.

“The number one thing scientists can do is talk and exchange ideas. As we discover new things it leads to new questions,” said Jones.



Van Andel Institute

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