Professor Doug Mashek (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics; Medicine; MSI PI) was a recipient of a UMII Updraft grant in September 2020. The grant funded two different but related projects. Both projects center around the concept of how specific nutrients and the metabolism can impact health and longevity.

The first study tested how dietary olive oil could impact energy metabolism compared to high-intensity interval training. Both olive oil consumption and exercise regimens involving high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are known to have positive health effects, but a direct comparison between the two or their possible interactions have not been studied. The study showed that female mice fed dietary olive oil experienced many of the same adaptations as the HIIT treatment group, suggesting that olive oil can elicit exercise-like effects in the body. Overall, this work provides new insights through which olive oil may convey health benefits and suggests that olive oil consumption could act as a partial replacement for exercise under some conditions. This needs further testing in humans.

The second project studied the effects of fat breakdown on lifespan and aging-related markers in fruit flies, a widely used model organism for aging studies. A large body of literature shows that reducing calories increases lifespan and prevents functional declines that occur with aging. As fat breakdown is robustly increased with calorie restriction, the researchers tested the specific effects of this process. They found that genetically engineering flies to have constitutively increased fat breakdown extended lifespan and improved all markers of vitality (more locomotion, resistance to stress, etc.) in aged flies. The effects of increased fat breakdown were most abundant in flies fed diets rich in nutrients, but the effects were negated in flies that were calorie restricted. These data suggest that increasing fat breakdown is likely a major mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of calorie restriction.

Two manuscripts resulting from the above work are currently under review:

  • Isolated and combined impact of dietary olive oil and exercise on markers of health and mitochondrial metabolism in female mice. Heden TD, Chen C, Leland G, Mashek MT, Najt CP, Shang L, Chow LS, Mashek DG.
  • Global lipolysis promotes healthspan in Drosophila melanogaster. Shang S, Aughey E, Kim H, Heden TD, Wang L, Esch N, Brunko S, Najt CP, Mashek MT, Chow LS, Promislow D, Neufeld T, Mashek DG.

Both datasets will be uploaded to NCBI when the manuscripts are accepted for publication.

In 2020, UMII merged the Updraft and On the Horizon Grant programs to form the UMII Seed Grant program

Research Computing partners:

  • University of Minnesota Informatics Institute
  • Minnesota Supercomputing Institute

Image description: Graphical abstract summarizing the benefits of promoting global fat breakdown.


Graphical abstract summarizing the benefits of promoting global fat breakdown