During the last quarter of 2018, we held three contests to find a Featured Young Scientist of the Month. Choosing the winners was a challenging task but three were selected from hundreds of applicants all around the world. Each winner now has $1500 worth of QIAGEN products to support their research project.
In the third and last contest, we’re very pleased to announce the winner is Paige Fletcher, a Ph.D. student from the University of Montana. Her research focuses on pulmonary inflammation and includes immunology, nanomaterials and nutrition studies. In trying to understand the mechanisms of lung inflammation, it became increasingly clear that developments of preventative and therapeutic treatments are lacking in this field. One possible treatment that’s been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects is the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is found in fish oil. Paige is interested in the impact of DHA on particle-induced inflammation and the mechanism of how DHA works as an anti-inflammatory dietary supplement. She and her team are specifically looking at both phagolysosomal membrane permeabilization and changes in macrophage phenotype when DHA is present – both before inflammation occurs and after, as a therapeutic treatment.
Delving into the details
This is how Paige explained her research to us: “Exposure of airborne toxicants can cause acute and chronic inflammation in the lungs and can lead to serious inflammatory diseases such as lung fibrosis and contribute to autoimmune diseases. Common sources of known pulmonary inflammation are various particles ranging from silica to nanoparticles. These can be used to model chronic inflammatory diseases from endogenous particles. With the increasing use of nanoparticles in various consumer products, it’s likely that the risk of pulmonary diseases from nanoparticle exposures will increase. An understanding the mechanisms of lung inflammation and development of preventative and therapeutic treatments are lacking in this field.”
Paige continues: “Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid that’s found in fish oil and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. According to reports, there’s been a 60% increase between 2007 and 2012 in the dietary intake of fish oil supplementation; however, its anti-inflammatory mechanisms are not fully understood. Current research using DHA as a potential treatment for particle-induced inflammation is scarce, but there is evidence that shows omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can suppress fine particle-induced pulmonary and systemic inflammation. My research addresses the gap of knowledge of the unknown mechanisms of DHA as an anti-inflammatory dietary supplement concerning particle-induced inflammation.”
The scientific premise of Paige’s research is that macrophages are key cells regulating inflammation in the lung and phagolysosomal membrane permeability (LMP) is a key regulatory step in their function. Macrophages are important regulators in an immune response to inhaled foreign materials, such as silica and nanomaterials, in order to maintain homeostasis. Therefore, she and her team are investigating the permeabilization of the phagolysosomal membrane as well as the changes in macrophage phenotype that occur in presence of DHA before and after inflammation. She’s hoping to conclude findings usable for a therapeutic treatment.
As 2018 comes to an end, we’d like to thank all who participated in the Young Scientist contests, and congratulate, once again, our three worthy winners. That’s all for this year’s Young Scientist contest. Visit our Facebook page in 2019 to see what else is in store – we’ll keep you updated on QIAGEN Life Sciences. Meanwhile, enjoy the holidays and have a great new year.