Lipids (fats and oils) often have a direct effect on human health. The modern prevalent and life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes, are all linked to fats or lipids consumed in our diets. The Laboratory for Lipid Medicine and Technology (LLMT), under the direction of Dr. Jing X. Kang, studies lipid biology and nutrition and develops technologies and products for the prevention and treatment of fat-related diseases. Specifically, we study the health effects of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil fatty acids, found mainly in fish and fish oils), how they work, and how genetic technologies can be used to further their benefits.
We are particularly interested in the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. Studies are performed at the molecular, cellular, animal and human levels. Techniques employed are those of molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry and biophysics, including the methods of genetics, nutrigenomics, proteomics, lipidomics and genetically modified animal models.
Over the past few years, our laboratory has made several pioneering or groundbreaking discoveries, including:
- pioneering demonstration of the anti-arrhythmic properties of polyunsaturated fatty acids and retinoic acid, as well as development of lipid formulations for the prevention and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
- invention of a biotechnology that could be used to produce omega-3 fats and modify essential fatty acid composition in mammalian cells without fatty acid supplementation.
- creation of the first transgenic mammal (mouse) and livestock (pig) capable of converting omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
- establishment of the fat-1 mouse model as a new tool for omega-3 fatty acid research, which can eliminate the confounding factors of diet, and demonstration of the importance of the omega-3 tissue status as well as n-6/n-3 fatty acid ratio in disease prevention.
- establishment of a simple method for analysis of fatty acid composition.
- development of a cutting-edge technology for chemical imaging of polyunsaturated fatty acids (e.g. omega-3 fatty acids) in living cells without labeling.
The laboratory is also proud of its contribution to the training of more than 40 pre- and post-doctoral trainees from different countries during the last five years.
The major areas of current research in LLMT are:
- development of nutri-biotechnology---for production of healthy food by modification of food nutrient contents (e.g. fat composition) using genetic engineering.
- nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics ---focusing on lipid-gene interaction using animal models or human specimens together with techniques of lipidomics and genomics/proteomics to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of action of omega-3 essential fatty acids.
- lipidomics ---identification and quantification of bioactive small lipid molecules, particularly those derived from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids by using GC-MS and LC-MS/MS.
- development of new analytical methods/devices--- for quick assay or high-through-put analysis of fatty acids and chemical imaging of lipids in living cells.
- translational research---focusing on nutritional supplement products for health promotion and novel drug formulation for therapy of certain diseases.
We are collaborating with dozens of laboratories worldwide on the above projects.