SPUR 2019: Trafficking and utilization of long-chain fatty acid supplementation during development


Neonatal supplementation of preterm infants with long chain fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the subject of several ongoing clinical trials. The rationale for supplementation is that preterm infants have low DHA, and that low DHA predisposes to the development of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). However, initial results from the clinical trial suggests inconclusive results at best, and possibly even a detrimental effect of DHA on BPD. A significant knowledge gap in the field, however, is the trafficking and utilization of supplemental DHA during development. Our lab is studying the whole body trafficking and utilization of supplemental DHA in the developing rat, with an emphasis on lung and liver.

Student Role

This project would examine the incorporation of supplemental DHA into membrane phospholipids of lung and liver, and subsequent cross-talk with epigenetic mechanisms. Experiments would utilize our rat model of DHA supplementation, with and without growth restriction. The project would involve techniques for lipidomics (via the core facility), gene and protein expression, and epigenetic techniques associated with regulation of gene expression.Prior lab experience is not necessary and many newcomers to the lab do not have any experience at the bench. Technical staff in the lab provide the first line of bench training with reinforcement from ongoing discussions with other members of the lab.

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

The goal of undergraduate research should be to gain experience, learn whether a particular type of research is appealing to the student, and to provide the student with the opportunity to enhance their CV for subsequent career opportunities. Our lab strives to meet all of these goals. The undergraduate student in the lab will gain insight into the clinical, biochemical, physiology surrounding neonatal development and lipids. They will also gain insight into methodological approaches, statistical considerations, and the analysis and presentation of data. Emphasis is continuously placed on scientific rigor and the responsible conduct of research. We also focus on tangible outcomes that enhance a student’s CV. These include co-authorship on abstracts and manuscripts, as well as the opportunity to showcase the summer’s research project in Divisional forums.

Lisa Joss-Moore
research associate Professor

School of Medicine

My mentoring philosophy is one of inclusiveness, and as a result, I have been the receipt of several mentoring awards. My lab is made up of undergraduate students, medical students, masters students and neonatal fellows. We work as a team where everyone has their own focused project, yet all projects interface under common themes. The expectation is that the each member of the team brings something to the table that all other members may benefit from. I have an “open-door” policy and meet with lab members in both planned sessions and spontaneously. Weekly one-on-one meetings and lab meetings ensure an open and continuous dialogue. In addition to project specific mentoring, I spend time with students focusing on more general academic considerations, including writing abstracts, giving presentations, as well as scientific rigor and the responsible conduct of research.