At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) in New York City, cell biologist Philipp Niethammer studies the fast-acting inflammation mechanisms that work to protect our bodies from infection.
If these mechanisms are overactive, though, they can have an adverse effect and cause damage. Likewise, the mechanisms may play a role in the development and prevention of different cancers.
So, within a project led by Yanan Ma, a postdoctoral researcher, Niethammer’s lab became especially interested in an inflammatory lipid known as 5-oxoETE.
Little is known about this lipid, and it has only been rarely studied due to one major limitation. According to Dr. Ma, a receptor that interacts with the lipid– known as OXER1– is not present in mice and rats.
And since rodents are most significantly used in laboratory research– accounting for 95% of animals– the function of the immune signaling pathway could not be analyzed so easily.
Well, that was until Niethammer’s lab realized that they could take a different approach using zebra fish– a tiny freshwater animal from the minnow family.
Why Focus On 5-oxoETE?
At their lab, the researchers primarily focus on inflammatory mechanisms that work to protect our organs and body cavities, like the lungs and mouth, against infection. At the same time, they study how these mechanisms can get out of control and cause severe damage.
Now, both the positive and negative effects of mucosal membrane inflammation are most often caused by the quick accumulation of a special antimicrobial white blood cell– known as a neutrophil.