HomeBorum LabStaff Spot Light – Dr. Peggy R. Borum, Ph.D.

Staff Spotlight - Dr. Peggy R. Borum, Ph.D,

Picture of Dr. Borum
Peggy R. Borum, Ph.D.
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Food Science and Human Nutrition Department
Joint Faculty-Division of Pediatric Neurology, Department of Pediatrics
Affiliated Faculty – Epilepsy Division, Department of Neurology

Dr. Borum currently teaches undergraduate biochemistry, graduate nutrition, and medical school clinical nutrition classes. Her translational science research program spans questions concerning biosynthesis, transport, and metabolic function of carnitine to the use of macronutrients to prevent and treat previously refractory neurological syndromes such as epilepsy.  For more than two decades the Precision Ketogenic Therapy Program has combined precision nutrition with precision medicine for the individual patient.

The goal of the lab is to help people who have no answer.  In the case of the PKT program, people have symptoms that lead to a diagnosis but no therapy to relieve their symptoms. 

It means that the lab works hard to find the cause of the symptoms and the mechanism of PKT to enhance our ability to improve PKT for each person. 

It means that the lab works hard to train students to administer and improve PKT and to educate health care professionals about PKT. 

Our first patient was treated in 1995 and we have treated more than 300 patients 

More than two decades.  Meet a few of our long-term patients Nina ChildsRachel SotaSophie Scholtz, and Jordan Grimes.

The term “Keto” refers to a multitude of different things.  Precision Ketogenic Therapy takes a precision medicine approach to nutritional ketosisThis means providing a precise diet prescription to the right person at precisely the right time and then changing it as the person’s symptoms and nutritional needs change. 

Usually, patients come to the program with a diagnosis of refractory epilepsy which means that everything available in medicine has failed to work. In addition to their complex neurological issues, they are often seeing every subspecialist known to man for other symptoms. They have had a rough medical journey and are complex and often fragile patients. 

PKT does not fit neatly into the medical model taught to most healthcare providers and therefore does not seem like an optimal choice for their patient. 

We are blessed to have healthcare providers in our program who are PKT and patient champions. 

Basic science techniques, data modeling applications, and knowledge of brain metabolism are moving very quickly which gives us the opportunity to address new questions. Metabolomics and microbiomics have opened windows to new possibilities. 

Teaching – In addition to the usual teaching of graduate students in the lab, the PKT program has provided many undergraduate students with a long term sustained opportunity to learn to do real world research in a multidisciplinary collaboration rather than simply have a research experience. These students come from most STEM majors and include formal internships for Health Education and Behavior students and formal Senior Projects for Computer Science and Engineering students.  

Research – PKT research has used well-defined dietary intake and detailed longitudinal data to show that the common practice of taking patients off therapy after 2-3 years to “recover” is not necessary if one uses a precise diet prescription based on a Foodomics database of the foods eaten.  In addition to pediatric patients successfully aging into adults on PKT, we have demonstrated the efficacy of long-term PKT begun in adults. Our current investigation of the role of gut microbiome and the plasma metabolome, as well as their interaction, on the mechanism of PKT is very exciting. 

Extension – Approximately 30-40% of Florida citizens experiencing chronic seizures do not respond adequately to current medical therapies such as medication and surgery. These are the patients referred to PKT. The first paper on Ketogenic therapy for seizures was published 100 years ago but the therapy remains difficult for many Florida citizens to receive partly because of a lack of accurate knowledge about it on the part of both providers and families. We are developing our website to improve the knowledge of both providers and patients about PKT. Increased use of food as medicine in this and other situations opens the possibilities of increased market for certain types of foods for growers and manufacturers in the state.   

UF Foundation – University of Florida Foundation funds continue to provide critical support to the PKT program. It is a wonderful way for stakeholders to support efforts to improve current knowledge and translate it to the needs of Floridians who will benefit from the research.