The Cardiovascular Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital

Jing Xuan Kang

Jing Xuan Kang

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Lab Overview

Lipids (fats and oils) often have a direct effect on human health. The modern prevalent and life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes, are all linked to fats or lipids consumed in our diets. My lab studies the prevention of disease and promotion of health through lipid nutrition. Specifically, we study the health effects of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil fatty acids, found mainly in fish and fish oils), how they work and how genetic technologies can be used to further their benefits.

Our studies, ranging from molecular level to clinical trial, have documented the efficacy of these fatty acids in the prevention and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias, the main cause of sudden cardiac death, and demonstrated that the protective action of these fatty acids results mainly from stabilization of the electrical activity of the heart cells. These fatty acids have now been shown to have many other health benefits. However, omega-3s are scarce in the diet and tissues of average American. Humans can't make the nutrient, and the average diet doesn't contain enough fish rich in omega-3. We have discovered that it is possible to genetically alter the fatty acids in mammals to be rich in these important omega-3s. My lab has already created transgenic mice that make their own omega-3 fatty acids (an important step, as mammals normally cannot make omega-3s on their own) by converting omega-6 fatty acids, a type of fat far too excessive in the Western diet. These mice have made it possible to closely study the nutrient's role in diseases such as heart disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome.

My lab recently created transgenic livestock that carry the same gene as the mice and successfully made omega-3 fatty acids on their own, even though they were fed an omega-6 fatty acid-rich diet. Thus genetically altered animals, such as pigs, fish, poultry, beef and mutton, which we regularly eat, will be rich in the class of polyunsaturated fatty acids most beneficial to human health. There will be no need to train the public to eat a special diet- a difficult feat. People will instead continue eating the foods they enjoy while still receiving the fats in their diet, which their bodies need for optimal health.

Currently, my lab is engaged in the development of Lipidomics, Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics. By using state-of the art technologies (e.g., GC-MS, LC-MS/MS, microarray, and genetically engineered animal models), we investigate the nutrient (fatty acids)-gene interaction and the formation of the bioactive omega-3 fatty acids-derived lipid mediators under physiological and pathological conditions, aimed at understanding the molecular mechanism of action of these lipids and identifying new targets/strategies for disease prevention and treatment.

Recent News:

    • September 2006: Light Shone on Disease-fighting Effect of Omega-3s »

    • March 2006: Cloning May Lead to Healthy Pork »

    • March 2006: Researchers Create Pigs that Produce Omega-3 Fatty Acids »

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Massachusetts General Hospital the cardiovascular research center