Trisha Jean Grevengoed
Dietary fat is a common target of obesity or heart disease treatment, with some fats being classified as healthy and others as unhealthy. Of course, the solution to cardiometabolic disease is not so simple as consuming only ‘good’ fat. Fats of all types are used for many functions in the body, including energy storage, structure of cells, and signaling from one cell to another, and both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats have important functions in these.
My research focuses on fat or lipid metabolism and effects of its dysregulation on health and disease. I am interested in the diverse roles of lipids in cardiometabolic diseases, such as atherosclerosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. By regulating the types of lipids present in a cell or tissue, we can alter the level of inflammation, energy state, and membrane properties, thus greatly changing the function of the cell. I am particularly interested in the ‘heart-healthy’ omega-3 fatty acids and examining novels functions of their metabolites.
My PhD work at the University of North Carolina focused heart health by studying the activation of fatty acids for ATP generation and complex lipid synthesis. I was able to connect altered energy metabolism in the heart to impaired removal of damaged mitochondria, which can contribute to heart dysfunction. In addition to studying heart function, I examined localization of enzymes and how this could affect protein function.
More recently I have worked to de-orphanize a class of lipid metabolites that I discovered have diverse biological functions from signaling to regulate glucose homeostasis to chemically altering dietary lipid absorption and preventing fatty liver disease. I have used regulation of these metabolites through diet, exercise and genetics to begin to understand the importance of these in physiology and disease. My work has moved the study of these bioactive molecules from cells to animal models and greatly expanded our knowledge of their roles in diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver.
Currently, I lead a group that focuses on determining biological functions of novel metabolites with an emphasis on metabolic disease and lipid metabolism. My previous work allows me to see lipids as dynamic molecules that can be important in signaling as well as structural components and substrates for ATP production. This is important because molecules have multiple avenues of activity and metabolic diseases have multiple factors contributing to development and progression. I plan to use my expertise in de-orphanizing metabolites and in lipid metabolism to contribute to improvements in treatments and prevent of metabolic disease.