Basic Sciences Annual Research Symposium

The Loma Linda University Basic Science Research Symposium is held every fall and is generally organized around a central theme. Based on this theme, we invite external speakers as well as several local faculty members to share their research and insight.

Thank you to all who attended the Loma Linda University Basic Sciences Symposium!

For this last year’s virtual symposium on November 4, 2021, the theme was “Omics Throughout Health & Disease." The Symposium began with a warm welcome from Tamara Thomas, dean of the School of Medicine, and Penelope Duerksen-Hughes, associate dean for Basic Science and Translational Research, and chair of the Department of Basic Sciences.

The keynote address “Use of Omics to examine health disparity cohorts: The Boston Puerto Rican Health Study”)was provided by Katherine Tucker, PhD, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, whereby the foundation was set for gene profiles and the metabolome surrounding life stressors, physiological adaptations, and development of co-morbidities (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder). It was especially shocking to learn that the difference between chronological and “biological” age can encompass an extreme range of 40 years, while favoring either acceleration or deceleration of the human aging process by ≈20 years in accord with genes, the environment, and lifestyle choices.

Following the keynote, we concluded the morning session with early to mid-career speakers as Hector Franco (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Nataliya Chorna (University of Puerto Rico) and John Zhong (Loma Linda University) who altogether presented innovative methods (e.g., single cell multi-omics, microfluidic sorting & detection) and perspectives (e.g., role of the gut microbiome) for addressing cancer and neurodegeneration.

As a meeting centrally dedicated to predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees, the afternoon began with a series of five-minute short (or “flash”) talks followed by an interactive two-hour poster session. A wide variety of projects were presented as the etiology of neurodegenerative disease (Dr. Md A. Hakim, Carson Whinnery, Timothy Simon), cardiovascular health of mother and child (Patricia Principe), prostate cancer chemotherapy for select populations (Greisha Ortiz-Hernandez), detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants in local wastewater sewage systems (Raeann Leal), application of gold “nanostars” for multipurpose therapy (Natasha Le), and embryonic limb development (Jessica Britton). As a result of their judged poster presentations, Perla Ontiveros-Angel, Natasha Le, and Greisha Ortiz-Hernandez earned first, second, and third place awards respectively.

I should also mention that Mrs. Ontiveros-Angel was an integral member of the Symposium committee while having introduced Dr. Tucker as the keynote speaker during the morning session (thank you Perla!). The remaining afternoon sessions included a final round of early to mid-career speakers as Arpana Gupta (University of California, Los Angeles), Mary Playdon (University of Utah) and Chi Viet (Loma Linda University). These talks helped to satisfy our remaining curiosity of the day concerning food addiction, interactions among the central nervous system and the microbiome, and epigenetic biomarkers & nutritional decisions per risk of cancer. 

Under a broad, inclusive theme as “Omics Throughout Health & Disease", there were many take home messages from the 2021 Symposium but perhaps we can focus here on a few. The first is that we now live in a world where modern biomedical research is comprehensive while highly interdisciplinary. There are various mechanistic layers to consider such as genes (genomics), epigenetics (epigenomics), RNA (transcriptomics), metabolites (metabolomics) and proteins (proteomics). Further, the interaction of various cellular proteins (e.g., ion channels, kinases) directly governs our moment-to-moment physiology, whereby their gradual breakdown in function underlies the aging process and the development of chronic diseases.

Another message is that we don’t thrive autonomously as human beings and symbiosis with gut microorganisms also helps to shape our health and longevity. A promising field of research at the present (and for the foreseeable future) entails the interaction between the central nervous system and the gut microbiome. Finally, genes and lifestyle choices indeed matter, whereby the latter is modifiable but complicated at an individual versus systematic level per education, environmental stewardship, and social justice.

As with past Basic Sciences Symposiums we treasured this 2021 meeting as a special opportunity for collegial interaction and fellowship. As a diverse array of curious scientists and problem-solvers of Loma Linda University Health, we will continue to tackle issues of humanity (and microorganisms!)--as we continue our dedication to the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ.



Erik J. Behringer, PhD                                             

Chair, 2021 Symposium Steering Committee           

Division of Pharmacology, School of Medicine       

Loma Linda University



Contact Information

Erik J. Behringer
Phone: 909-651-5334  Ext.15334

For Poster Presentation Information:
Johnny Figueroa
Phone: 909-558-4000 Ext. 81302
Email: jfigueroa at

For Symposium Organization:
Maria Villarreal
Phone: 909-558-7464