Researchers Believe that Fatty Acid Can Kill Human Cancer Cells

Sunday, July 12, 2020 - 14:18

Washington State University researchers have demonstrated that a fatty acid called dihomogamma-linolenic acid, or DGLA, can kill human cancer cells.

According to the Medical News report, researchers found that DGLA can induce ferroptosis in an animal model and in actual human cancer cells. Ferroptosis is an iron-dependent type of cell death that was discovered in recent years and has become a focal point for disease research as it is closely related to many disease processes.

The study, published in Developmental Cell on July 10, DGLA is a polyunsaturated fatty acid found in small amounts in the human body, though rarely in the human diet. Compared to other fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, DGLA is relatively understudied.

Jennifer Watts, a Washington State University associate professor and corresponding author on the paper has been researching dietary fats including DGLA for nearly twenty years, using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as an animal model. A microscopic worm, C. elegans is often used in molecular research because it is transparent and allows scientists to easily study cell-level activity in a whole animal over its relatively short lifespan. Results found in the C. elegans cells are also often transferable to human cells.

Watts' research team discovered that feeding nematodes a diet of DGLA-laden bacteria killed all the germ cells in the worms as well as the stem cells that make the germ cells. The way the cells died carried many signs of ferroptosis.

"Many of the mechanisms we saw in the nematodes were consistent with the hallmarks of ferroptosis in mammalian systems, including the presence of redox-active iron and the inability to repair oxidized lipids, which are like molecular executioners," said Marcos Perez, a WSU doctoral student and first author on the paper.

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