Research in my laboratory focuses on the effects of unsaturated fatty acids on inflammation and the immune system. The current focus is to understand how unsaturated fatty acids affect leukocytes cells and the characteristics of the immune response elicited in the presence of unsaturated fatty acids. More specifically, the cytokine profile upon stimulation, surface markers, T-cell proliferation and viability are being studied. A number of techniques are being utilized in these investigations such as flow cytometry, fluorescence microscopy, ELISA, qPCR, T cell proliferation and viability assays.

DHA: Prevalent in fish oil, can also be synthesized from ALA. Algae consumed by fish are the actual source of this fatty acid in fish. We have seen significant reduction in inflammatory cytokines produced by dendritic cells in the presence of this fatty acid. Metabolites of this fatty acid have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

EPA: Found in fish oil, can be synthesized from ALA just like DHA. Algae consumed by fish are the source of this fatty acid. Resolvins are metabolites of this fatty acid that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. We have observed augmentation of apoptosis of effector T-cells in the presence of Resolvin E1 treated DCs and an overall anti-inflammatory character. Both DHA and EPA synthesis is dependent on ALA. LA may competitively inhibit the production of these long chain omega-3 fatty acids, making the nutritional intake route as a more effective way of deriving these fatty acids.

 

OA: Particulalry high in olive, peanut and hazelnut oil. At least some of the health benefits of the mediteranean diet are thought to be due to oleic acid. It is also prevalent in a variety of bean derived oils. We have observed a reversal in inhibition of insulin production by TNFa in the presence of oleic acid and peanut oil high in oleic acid.

AA: Found in low amounts in breast milk, eggs and in high amounts in liver. Baby formula is fortified with this fatty acid, it is thought to enhance immune developement. It is the precursor of prostaglandins which cause inflammation and pain. However, one cannot assume that it is an unhealthy lipid.

LA: Together with OA, they are in most cases the most prevalent fatty acids in vegetable oils. It is considered an essential fatty acid and cannot be synthesized by the human body.

ALA: Found in very high amounts in flaxseed and to a lesser extent in walnuts and almonds. It is considered anti-inflammatory and an excellent plant derived omega-3 choice.