The research of Ian R. Lanza, Ph.D., is focused on discovering effective, realistic and economical approaches to prevent and treat metabolic disorders in the context of obesity, aging and physical inactivity.
One area of particular interest to him is the impact of lifestyle factors, such as exercise and nutrition, on skeletal muscle and the liver. Both of these tissues are highly important in regulating the body's metabolism of glucose in response to insulin, a function that is impaired in people with diabetes or prediabetes.
Additionally, skeletal muscle is critically important to maintaining physical function throughout the life span.
- Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These "essential" fatty acids are highly abundant in cold-water fish and some plants. Epidemiological studies and preclinical studies suggest that including these types of fats in the diet can reduce the incidence of diabetes.
Dr. Lanza is engaged in studies to identify novel mechanisms to explain this health benefit. Additional translational studies are being conducted to evaluate the therapeutic potential of dietary omega-3 consumption in people with insulin resistance.
- Mitochondrial physiology. Dr. Lanza has established several methodologies at Mayo Clinic to evaluate the function of mitochondria, a cellular organelle that provides an abundance of chemical energy that is essential for survival.
Small biopsies of skeletal muscle are used to either isolate mitochondria or isolate small bundles of muscle fibers. The content, capacity and efficiency of mitochondria in these samples are evaluated in the laboratory under carefully controlled conditions.
Dr. Lanza also uses magnetic resonance spectroscopy to noninvasively measure mitochondrial bioenergetics in the exercising muscles of human research volunteers. This technology is also used to noninvasively measure the amount of fat in the muscle and liver, which is a strong predictor of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Significance to patient care
Through his preclinical studies and translational studies in humans, Dr. Lanza aims to uncover novel therapeutic strategies and underlying mechanisms to help prevent the progression from prediabetes to diabetes, as well as prevent metabolic abnormalities that are hallmarks of aging.