October 17, 2019

Amy Rumora, Ph.D., Receives Honors from Both American Neurological Association and NIDDK

PNRD Research on Diabetic Neuropathy chosen as 6 “Highlights of the Meeting,” out of submissions by over 800 of the nation’s top neurologists at the American Neurological Association’s Annual meeting.

2019 is shaping up to be quite a year for postdoctoral fellow Amy Rumora, Ph.D.  In October, her work with Program for Neurology Research & Discovery Director Eva Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., was featured at 144th ANA Annual Meeting.  “Saturated and Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Differentially Regulate Nerve Function in Murine Models of Obesity,” was chosen as one of the 6 “Highlights of the Meeting,” out of submissions from over 800 of the nation’s top neurologists that attended.

In this study, obese, prediabetic mice were fed a diet high in saturated fatty acids.  Later, some animals were switched to a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids with the same calorie count as before.  The animals on the unsaturated fatty acid diet actually had a reversal of neuropathy.  Diabetic neuropathy is common, but serious complication of diabetes where nerves, most often in the hands and feet, progressively degrade over time.  Right now there is no known cure, but Dr. Rumora’s research has implications that the type of fat a person eats could possibly reverse this neuropathic damage (see M Health Blog).

Peripheral neuropathy graphic
peripheral neuropathy

In addition to the ANA honor, Dr. Rumora moved much closer to her dream of having her own lab after receiving the Pathway to Independence Award from the NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, a grant of up to $927,000.

“Dr. Rumora is an exceptional young scientist—brilliant, creative, innovative and inspired,” Dr. Feldman said. “Few scientists work harder than she does. It’s not unusual for Dr. Rumora to clock 14 to 16 hour days. She is going to make a real difference in the field of neuropathy and I feel very fortunate to have had the pleasure of mentoring her. She is a true scientific rock star!” says Dr. Feldman. “Her grandfather taught me here at Michigan when I was a student. He would be so proud of her, so very proud.”

Amy Rumora with grandfather Bill Jourdian, Ph.D.
Amy Rumora with grandfather Bill Jourdian, Ph.D.

Science has Dr. Rumora’s grandfather (Bill Jourdian, Ph.D.) to thank for her dedication. One look under the microscope in his University of Michigan biochemistry lab, and the 8-year-old Rumora was hooked.Now, with the two-part K99/R00 program, she has a clear pathway open her lab, as it is “designed to facilitate a timely transition from a mentored postdoctoral research position to a stable independent research position with independent NIH or other research support at an earlier state than is the norm.” In short, Dr. Rumora is a science rockstar.

Dr. Rumora will remain under the mentorship of Dr. Feldman for up to two years during the K99 portion of the program, studying “Sphingolipid Lipid and Fatty Acid Biology in Prediabetes and Neuropathy,” for which she received the grant.

“I want to understand the molecular changes that improve nerve function when mice are switched to a monounsaturated fat diet.” she explained. “By doing so we hope to identify therapeutic targets to develop treatments to improve nerve function in prediabetic and diabetic patients with neuropathy.”

Dr. Rumora then advances to the Roo phase, where she moves onto another institution, opens her own lab, and, in addition to her research, begins to train the next generation of scientific dreamers. The R00 segment can last up to three years.

Other research from Amy Rumora, Ph.D.:

 Amy E. Rumora, Giovanni LoGrasso, John M. Hayes, Faye E. Mendelson, Maegan A. Tabbey, Julia A. Haidar, Stephen I. Lentz, Eva L. Feldman. The divergent roles of dietary saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids on nerve function in murine models of obesity. Journal of Neuroscience. 2019 May 8; 39(19):3770-3781. PMID: 30886017 

Amy E. Rumora, Giovanni LoGrasso, Julia A. Haidar, Justin J. Dolkowski, Stephen I. Lentz, Eva L. Feldman. Chain length of saturated fatty acids regulates mitochondrial trafficking and function in sensory neurons. Journal of Lipid Research. 2019 Jan;60(1):58-70. PMID: 30442656 

Amy E. Rumora*, Stephen I. Lentz*, Lucy M. Hinder, Samuel W. Jackson, Andrew Valesano, Gideon E. Levinson, Eva L. Feldman. Dyslipidemia impairs mitochondrial trafficking and function in sensory neurons. FASEB. 2018 Jan;32(1):195-207. PMID: 28904018