Young UMass Amherst Scientist Honored for Contributions to IBD, Colon Cancer Research

Young UMass Amherst Scientist Honored for Contributions to IBD, Colon Cancer Research

Food scientist Guodong Zhang, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been granted the 2019 AOCS Young Scientist Research Award for his research on risk factors that contribute to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer.

This award by American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) honors scientists younger than 36, whose research “has significantly effected an advance within their discipline, or holds substantial promise for such an effect in the near future.”

Zhang will receive $1,000, a plaque, and a $1,500 travel allowance to attend the AOCS annual meeting that will be held May 5–8 in St. Louis, Mo.

“We are very happy to receive this award,” Zhang, including his research team in the honor, said in a university news release.

During the meeting, Zhang will present a lecture on his research to understand the role of oxidized fat as a new potential risk factor for IBD and colon cancer.

“This is another major area we are currently working on,” he said.

The lecture, “Oxidized dietary fat: a novel risk factor of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer via altering gut microbiota,” will be held the morning of May 8, in the Health and Nutrition Session 4.

A recent study by Zhang and his collaborators showed that exposure to the chemical compound triclosan can induce low-grade colonic inflammation, increase colitis, and exacerbate colitis-associated colon cancer in mice. Triclosan is a commonly used antimicrobial agent that is present in more than 2,000 products, such as toothpaste, cosmetics, kitchenware, and toys.

The researchers found that exposure to triclosan can change the natural balance of microorganisms and support pro-inflammatory mechanisms in the gut of mice. Additional experiments showed that inhibition of TLR4 signaling in mice can hinder triclosan’s effects and prevent colitis development.

“These results highlight the need to reassess the effects of (triclosan) on human health and potentially update policies regulating the use of this widely used antimicrobial,” the researchers wrote.

In another published study, Zhang and his team showed that oxidized fat products, such as 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE), can contribute to the development and worsening of IBD in mice. The study also found that inhibition of TLR4 signals could prevent the pro-inflammatory effects of 4-HNE in mice.

“These results support that oxidative stress, which is a common feature in IBD, contributes to the pathogenesis (development) of IBD,” they stated. Additional studies are still warranted to better understand if it is “feasible to target oxidative stress to reduce the risks of IBD.”

At the AOCS meeting, scientists from Zhang’s lab will present their most recent research on risk factors for colonic inflammation.

The two presentations, “4-HNE, an Endogenous Lipid Peroxidation Product, Exacerbates Colonic Inflammation through Activation of Toll-like Receptor 4 Signaling” and “Lipidomic Profiling Reveals Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase as a Therapeutic Target of Obesity-induced Colonic Inflammation,” will take place in the same session as Zhang’s lecture.