New investigator: Saraswathi Viswanathan, Ph.D.

February 13, 2019

Image with caption: Saraswathi Viswanathan, Ph.D.

Saraswathi Viswanathan, Ph.D.

This profile is part of a series to highlight the researchers who will be honored at a ceremony for UNMC's 2018-19 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist, Research Leadership and New Investigator Award recipients.

The New Investigator Award

New Investigator Awards go to outstanding UNMC scientists who in the past two years have secured their first funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense or other national sources. New Investigators also had to demonstrate scholarly activity such as publishing their research and/or presenting their findings at national conventions.

  • Name: Saraswathi Viswanathan, Ph.D.
  • Title: Associate professor, UNMC Department of Internal Medicine
  • Joined UNMC: 2011
  • Hometown: Chennai, India

Research focus:

  • Obesity
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Pancreatic cancer

The goal of my research is: To determine mechanisms by which obesity and chronic ethanol consumption lead to the development of fatty liver disease. While the vast majority of people with obesity or heavy drinkers develop fatty liver disease, some of these individuals go on to develop the more serious steatohepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Mounting evidence suggests that obesity (visceral fat accumulation) and insulin resistance are strongly associated with the severity of alcoholic liver disease. However, the exact mechanisms by which obesity and alcohol interact to intensify liver injury are still unclear.

Moreover, to date there are no established pharmacotherapies for this condition and the development of novel therapies has been hampered by a poor understanding of the molecular mechanisms contributing to liver injury. Our focus is to define how adipose tissue dysfunction that results from a high fat diet and/or ethanol consumption contributes to the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease in obesity. Obesity is not only associated with metabolic diseases but also increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. To this end, we have expanded our research interest to study the role of obesity-related factors in modulating the development of pancreatic cancer.

My research will make a difference because: Cellular metabolism underpins all physiological and pathological processes and, dysregulation of cellular metabolism is a hallmark of obesity-linked diseases. Using the metabolism-based approaches and establishing interdisciplinary collaborations, we seek to address the knowledge gap in nutrient metabolism and how it is associated with the development of oxidative stress and inflammation which, in turn, alters the pathogenesis of obesity and related diseases.

The best advice I've ever been given is:
"Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value." -Albert Einstein

Three things you may not know about me are:

  • I have two daughters, one in middle school and one in elementary school.
  • I like to read, but my favorite hobby is cooking.
  • I love watching movies with my family.


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Sathish kumar Natarajan
February 24, 2019 at 6:24 PM

Congratulations! Well Deserved!!

Kusum K. Kharbnada, PhD
February 13, 2019 at 11:29 AM

Congratulations Saras!!

February 13, 2019 at 8:37 AM