Study Reveals How Saturated Fatty Acids Damage Cells

In our increasing society, another new fad diet appears to pop up at every few years. Atkins, Zone, Ketogenic, Vegetarian, Vegan, South Beach, Raw – with such a significant number of choices and scientific evidence to back each, it’s difficult to know what’s healthy and what’s not. One message, notwithstanding, has remained all through: saturated fats are bad.

A new Columbia University study reveals why. While specialists, nutritionists, and scientists have known for a long time that saturated fats add to some of the main causes of death in the United States, they haven’t possessed the capacity to determine how or why excess saturated fats, such as, those released from lard, are toxic to cells and cause a wide variety of lipid-related diseases, while unsaturated fats those from fish and olive oil, can be protective.

To find answers, for the direct tracking of fatty acids after they’ve been absorbed into living cells, Columbia researchers built up another microscopy technique. The technique involves replacing hydrogen particles with fatty acids with their deuterium and isotope without changing their physicochemical properties and behavior like traditional strategies to do.

By doing the switch, by an advanced imaging technique called stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy, from fatty acids all atoms produced can be seen inside living cells. What the analysts discovered utilizing this technique could have a significant effect on both the understanding and treatment of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Published online December first in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the group reports that the cellular process of building the cell membrane from saturated fatty acids results in patches of the solidified layer in which atoms are “frozen.” Under healthy conditions, this membrane should be flexible and the particles fluidic.

The analysts explained from the rest of the cell’s membrane, that the stiff, straight, long chains of saturated fatty acids rigidify the lipid atoms and cause them to isolate. Under their microscope, the team observed that those lipid molecules at that point accumulate in tightly-packed “islands,” or clusters, that don’t move much – a state they call “solid-like”. Into the cell, when saturated fatty acids enter; those islands develop in their size and then creating increasing inelasticity of the membrane and gradually harming the entire cell.

Principal Investigator Wei Min, an educator of science said, “For a long time, we trusted that all cell membrane is liquid-like, allowing embedded proteins to change their shape and perform responses. A solid-like membrane was not really seen in living mammalian cells previously.

What we saw was quite different and surprising.” Lipid particles produced from unsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, bear a kink in their chains, Min said, which makes it impossible for these lipid molecules to align intimately with each other as immersed ones do. They keep on moving around freely instead of framing stationary clusters. In their movement, these particles can jostle and slide in the middle of the tightly-packed saturated fatty acid chains.

First Author YihuiShen, a graduate understudy in Min’s lab said, “We found that including unsaturated fats could ‘melt’ the membrane islands frozen by saturated fatty acids”. This new mechanism, she stated, can mostly explain the beneficial impact of unsaturated fatty acids and how unsaturated fats like those from fish oil can be protective in some lipid disorders. The examination speaks to the first time through researchers could visualize the distribution and dynamics of fatty acids in such detail inside living cells, Shen included, and it revealed a previously unknown toxic physical condition of the saturated lipid accumulation inside cellular membranes.

Min said, “The behavior of saturated fatty acids once they’ve entered cells adds to major and regularly deadly diseases. The direct physical data we have to start searching for effective approaches to treat them, visualizing how fatty acids are adding to lipid metabolic disease gives us. Maybe, for instance, we can figure out how to obstruct the toxic lipid accumulation. We’re excited. This finding has the potential to really affect public health, particularly for lipid-related diseases.”


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