Friday, March 4, 2022

Spotlight on Sugasini Dhavamani, recipient of the 2022 Health and Nutrition Division New Investigator Research Award

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Sugasini Dhavamani is the recipient of the 2022 Health and Nutrition Division New Investigator Research Award. This award recognizes a young scientist who is making significant and substantial research contributions in one of the areas represented by the Health and Nutrition Division.

About Sugasini Dhavamani

Sugasini Dhavamani

Dr. Sugasini Dhavamaniy earned her Ph.D. from the University of Mysore (Karnataka, India). Her Ph.D research focused on the intake of omega-3 fatty acids in vegetarian populations. She adopted a nanotechnology approach to enhance the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and assess its impact on cardiovascular and cognitive functions. 

She has received the Alzheimer Association Research Grant (AARG) Award, Young Gandhian Technological Innovation Award presented by the President of India, Indian Council of Medical Research Award and Best Researcher Award at the Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research–Central Food Technological Research Institute. 

She has been granted three US patents with two more patents pending. Her work has resulted in 30 research publications in international peer-reviewed journals, such as Scientific Reports (Nature), Frontiers in Neuroscience, Journal of Lipid Research, Lipids, PLOS Genetics, PLOS one and Food Chemistry.

She is a dedicated scientist with unique expertise in lipidomics, lipid biochemistry and nutrition, novel nutraceuticals, Alzheimer Disease (AD), and retinal degeneration diseases. She is mainly interested in understanding the mechanism of action of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain, especially in associated with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer Disease-related Dementia (ADRD), and depression disorder. She is also interested in understanding the mechanism of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC PUFA) in the retina, especially when associated with age-related retinal macular degeneration and Stagardt macular degeneration. 

Can you tell us about your current research?

My current research focuses on the lyosomega-3 as a novel nutraceutical approach for the prevention of AD, which is the major cause of cognitive decline in the elderly and  is projected to afflict 16 million Americans by 2050, at an annual cost of $1.1 trillion. Since there is no cure for ADRD, prevention is the best option. Since docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids (DHA and EPA) play a critical role in brain health, and since its levels are decreased in AD, we are investigating increasing its levels for the prevention in ADRD patients. We test the hypothesis that LPC-DHA is superior to the currently available DHA supplements (including fish oil and krill oil) in enriching brain DHA in a various mouse model of AD and related dementia (5XFAD mice, APOE3 mice, APOE4 mice, APP/PS mice and SAMP8 mice). I am collaborating on a project with North Shore Hospital  (Chicago, USA) on a project where we studied the fatty acid distribution and phospholipid compositions in placental regions of normal and diabetic pregnancy.

I am also working on a project to correlate lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) DHA fed rats and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), along with correlating Mice fed LPC DHA, EPA, or lyso omega-3 and BDNF. I enjoy the current work very much as it perfectly matches my expertise and interests with a major goal for society as it enters the 21st century.

We showed for the first time that feeding DHA as LPC to normal mice markedly increased their brain and retinal DHA content. Moreover, this research will pave the way for a safe, cost-effective nutraceutical strategy for the prevention of the ADRD and retinal macular degeneration in the human population. In the coming year, I will continue ongoing research programs to identify the most efficient dietary carrier of DHA/EPA for enriching brain DHA, and to determine whether such enrichment can prevent ADRD.

What was your reaction when you learned you had won the award?

I felt proud, happy and delighted when I received the email from AOCS, because I love lipids and I would like to continue this lipid journey in the future. One of my dream achievements came true today. I would like to thank the AOCS and award committee members. I would also like to give special thanks to my predoc and postdoc mentors who helped me reach this level.

How has AOCS helped develop your career?

I entered the lipid field in 2006. From that time onward, I have read AOCS standards and journals, especially Lipids, regularly to stay informed on edible oils and fats, phospholipids, structured lipids, fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, nutraceuticals and nutritional lipids.

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