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. Skeletal muscle is of great interest to Dr. Lanza because it is critically important to maintaining physical function and metabolic health throughout the life span.
Dr. Lanza's research involves preclinical studies as well as translational mechanistic intervention studies in humans. An area of particular interest is the impact of lifestyle factors such as exercise and nutrition on skeletal muscle function, energy metabolism and adaptations to exercise.
Adaptive responses to physical activity. Exercise effectively delays disease and disability in many people, but it is not yet understood why some people adapt quickly to exercise while others do not. Dr. Lanza is conducting mechanistic studies in humans to determine the underlying mechanisms that contribute to this so-called exercise resistance. Strategies to enhance exercise responsiveness in at-risk populations also are being explored by Dr. Lanza, particularly for those who cannot engage in the 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services.
There are currently no valid exercise mimetics that can completely emulate the therapeutic benefic of exercise, but it may be possible to effectively enhance adaptations to exercise in people who are exercise resistant or are unable to engage in exercise at sufficient intensities or volumes required to induce therapeutic benefit.
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.
Omega-3 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; these dietary lipids exhibit anabolic effects, and studies are underway to evaluate their influence on muscle protein metabolism in older adults.
- Metabolomics. Metabolomics is the measurement of small molecules in biological fluids and tissues and is a cornerstone of Dr. Lanza's research. Mass spectrometry is used as an analytical tool for measuring isotopic enrichment in amino acids, glucose and lipids. Incorporation or dilution of stable isotopes provides unique opportunities for evaluating glucose, amino acid and lipid kinetics in humans in vivo. Dr. Lanza is the director of the Metabolomics Core facility at Mayo Clinic, which specializes in these measurements as well as qualitative and quantitative metabolomics.
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 and physical deterioration that are hallmarks of aging.
- Consulting editor, Diabetes, 2015-present
- Associate scientific adviser, Science Translational Medicine, 2015-present
- Associate editor, PLOS One, 2013-present