Scientists help explain how dietary fat affects stem cell differentiation

December 1, 2017, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

You are what you eat when it comes to fat, report scientists from McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) in the journal Science Advances.

Dietary fats are converted into lipids, which make up the membranes that surround all living cells.

The type of fat a person consumes may determine whether stem cells are converted into bone cells or , said Ilya Levental, Ph.D., the study's senior author and assistant professor of integrative biology and pharmacology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

"The fats that we consume such as cholesterol, unsaturated fats and fish oil become robustly incorporated into the membranes of our cells and dramatically change the composition and function of those membranes," said Levental, a Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Scholar.

To test their theory, Kandice Levental, Ph.D., the study's lead author and assistant professor of integrative biology and pharmacology at McGovern Medical School, measured the lipid content of mesenchymal (connective tissue) stem cells as they transformed into or fat cells.

The Leventals found that bone cell membranes had unique compositions, being particularly high in a type of dietary fat, omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. This fat is also called DHA and is the most abundant component of fish oil, a common dietary supplement. Most importantly, they found that adding such fish oil fats to mesenchymal pushed them to transform into osteoblasts (bone-forming cells) as opposed to adipocytes (fat-storing cells).

This fundamental research helps explain why might benefit people with osteoporosis, a bone weakening disorder. More broadly, it may provide insight into the many connections between and a variety of clinical outcomes, including healthy aging and heart disease.

"Our investigations suggest a general mechanism by which dietary fats affect cellular physiology through remodeling of membrane lipidomes, biophysical properties and signaling," the authors wrote.

Explore further: Researchers report findings on the effects of fat on stem cells

Related Stories

Researchers report findings on the effects of fat on stem cells

November 9, 2017
You really are what you eat—especially when it comes to fats, according to a study this week in the journal Science Advances that was co-authored by Rice University undergraduate Allison Skinkle and colleagues at the Laboratory ...

Researchers describe mechanism that underlies age-associated bone loss

September 22, 2017
A major health problem in older people is age-associated osteoporosis—the thinning of bone and the loss of bone density that increases the risk of fractures. Often this is accompanied by an increase in fat cells in the ...

Fetal membranes may help transform regenerative medicine

August 30, 2017
A new review looks at the potential of fetal membranes, which make up the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus during pregnancy, for regenerative medicine.

A closer look at osteoporosis medication's mechanisms may improve outcomes

July 31, 2017
Osteoporosis is the primary cause of bone fractures in the elderly. Bone loss in this disease reflects an imbalance between the activity of bone-degrading cells called osteoclasts and bone-building cells called osteoblasts. ...

Researchers find new way to force stem cells to become bone cells

November 16, 2015
Imagine you have a bone fracture or a hip replacement, and you need bone to form, but you heal slowly – a common fact of life for older people. Instead of forming bone, you could form fat. Researchers at the University ...

Recommended for you

Human 'chimeric' cells restore crucial protein in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

March 16, 2018
Cells made by fusing a normal human muscle cell with a muscle cell from a person with Duchenne muscular dystrophy —a rare but fatal form of muscular dystrophy—were able to significantly improve muscle function when implanted ...

Team develops 3-D tissue model of a developing human heart

March 16, 2018
The heart is the first organ to develop in the womb and the first cause of concern for many parents.

Genetic variant discovery to help asthma sufferers

March 16, 2018
Research from the University of Liverpool, published today in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, identifies a genetic variant that could improve the safety and effectiveness of corticosteroids, drugs that are used to treat a range ...

Researchers say use of artificial intelligence in medicine raises ethical questions

March 15, 2018
In a perspective piece, Stanford researchers discuss the ethical implications of using machine-learning tools in making health care decisions for patients.

Study identifies potential drug for treatment of debilitating inherited neurological disease

March 15, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have demonstrated in mouse studies that the neurological disease spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) can be successfully treated with drugs. The finding paves the way for ...

Clearing clumps of protein in aging neural stem cells boosts their activity

March 15, 2018
Young, resting neural stem cells in the brains of mice store large clumps of proteins in specialized cellular trash compartments known as lysosomes, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.