So-called”good fatty acids” are vital for human health and much sought after by those who try to eat healthily. Among the Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is crucial to brain function, eyesight and the regulation of inflammatory phenomena.
In addition to such virtues, DHA is also related to a reduction in the prevalence of cancer. How it works is the topic of a major discovery with a multidisciplinary group of University of Louvain (UCLouvain) researchers, who have just elucidated the biochemical mechanism that enables DHA as well as other related fatty acids to impede the development of tumours. This is a major advance that has lately been published in the diary Cell Metabolism.
Key to the discovery: interdisciplinarity
In 2016, Olivier Feron’s UCLouvain team, that specialises in oncology, discovered that cells in an acidic microenvironment (acidosis) within tumours replace sugar with lipids as a power source in order to multiply. In cooperation with UCLouvain’s Cyril Corbet, Prof. Feron demonstrated in 2020 that these same cells are the most aggressive and get the capability to depart the first tumour to generate metastases. Meanwhile, Yvan Larondelle, a professor in the UCLouvain Faculty of Bioengineering, whose staff is developing improved dietary lipid resources, suggested to Prof. Feron that they combine their abilities in a research project, headed by PhD candidate Emeline Dierge, to assess the behavior of tumour cells in the presence of different fatty acids.
Thanks to the support of the Fondation Louvain, the Belgian Cancer Foundation and the Télévie telethon, the group immediately identified that these acidotic tumour cells reacted in diametrically opposite ways based on the fatty acid they had been absorbing. Within a few weeks, the results have been both impressive and surprising. “We soon found that certain fatty acids stimulated the tumour cells while others killed them,” the researchers explained. DHA literally radicals them.
A fatal overload
The toxin a