Texas Tech University

Nutritional Sciences Student Wins National Three Minute Thesis Competition

Elyssa Sanders

July 25, 2022

Mahsa Yavari

Mahsa Yavari presented her research at the NUTRITION 2022 LIVE ONLINE conference.

Last month, Mahsa Yavari, a doctoral student in Texas Tech University's College of Human Sciences, won the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) national Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for her research on the beneficial effects of fish oil in a humanized mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.

Yavari's abstract scored in the top 15% of the 700 abstracts submitted to ASN by students and postdoctoral fellows, and she was selected as a finalist for the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Abstract Recognition Award Program, which recognizes the very best research presented by students and young investigators.

“Alzheimer's typically begins in the part of the brain that controls learning,” Yavari said. “As the disease advances, abnormal structures called amyloid beta plaques accumulate in the brain and start damaging and killing nerve cells, leading to disorientation and changes in mood and other behaviors.”

Since coming to Texas Tech in 2018, Yavari has been mentored by Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa, a Horn Distinguished Professor of nutritional sciences, director of the Nutrigenomics, Inflammation and Obesity Research (NIOR) Laboratory and founding director of Texas Tech's Obesity Research Institute.

Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa
Naïma Moustaïd-Moussa

“Extensively published research in Dr. Moustaïd-Moussa's lab showed that fish oil reduces inflammation that commonly accompanies obesity,” Yavari explained. “Based on these studies, we hypothesized that fish oil may also protect from inflammation that develops in the brain of Alzheimer's disease patients.”

Yavari's results demonstrated the effectiveness of fish oil in reducing amyloid beta concentration in both the serum and the brain. The fish oil also activated neuroprotective genes related to neuronal repair and brain health. These findings could have significant implications for the future of dietary interventions in Alzheimer's treatment. 

“Mahsa has done an outstanding job during her dissertation research and has represented Texas Tech very well,” Moustaïd-Moussa said. “I am very proud of her accomplishments and hard work that identified novel mechanisms by which fish oil may provide benefits in Alzheimer's, in part by reducing brain and serum amyloids and activating protective genes and pathways in the brain. Mahsa will be submitting her research papers soon for peer-reviewed publications.

“This national recognition is an indication of the high-quality research conducted at Texas Tech. The training that our students receive in their mentors' labs, the Graduate School and the Office of Research & Innovation prepare them exceptionally well to compete nationally and internationally.”

Mahsa Yavari
Mahsa Yavari

Yavari expressed her gratitude to the Graduate School, her fellow NIOR researchers and her mentor for their support. 

“I'm thankful for Dr. Moustaïd-Moussa, my mentor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, for giving me the opportunity to work on this study and for believing in me, and for all her support and trainings over the past four years,” Yavari said. “I'm also very grateful to the Graduate School for training us through Texas Tech's annual 3MT competition, which was invaluable preparation for the national competition.”