Kien Lab Research

Research Interests

  • Effects of long and short chain fatty acids on metabolism. This work includes studies of dietary saturated fat (palmitic acid) and monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) as well as collaborative studies with Dr. Jana Kraft, UVM, on unique fatty acids found in milk fat.
  • Fermentation of carbohydrate and its effects on the colonic microbiota, butyrate production, and cell function. 
  • Dietary fatty acids and cognitive function.

Research Goals

  • To determine how ingestion of dietary fatty acids may alter the risks of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cognitive decline.
  • To determine if the ingestion of carbohydrates and perhaps dietary fats alter the colonic microbiota and bacterial metabolism (e.g., changes in the production of butyric acid, a bacterial metabolite).  Our studies have potential relevance to the health effects of dairy products (including infant feeding) and dietary fat.

Types of Research Performed

Human Translational Research: Work carried out in the Kien Lab is focused mainly on human studies at the UVM Clinical Research Center.  We are studying the effects of dietary palmitic and oleic acid on the brain and, in collaboration with Dr. Jana Kraft, Department of Animal Science at UVM, the metabolic effects of cow milk-derived fatty acids. 

  • Studies of the effects of palmitate and oleate on inflammatory pathways (protein and gene expression studies; activation of toll-like receptor 4 and the NLRP3 inflammasome) (with Dr. Matthew Poynter, Department of Medicine, UVM);
  • Studies of physical activity, mood, executive function, cognition, and activation of relevant brain regions (fMRI studies), currently in collaboration with Dr. Julie Dumas (Department of Psychiatry, UVM) and Dr. Joshua Nickerson (Department of Radiology, UVM and the MRI Center for Biomedical Imaging);
  • Lipidomic studies, with a heavy emphasis on principal components analysis and path analysis (with Dr. Janice Bunn, Department of Mathematics/Statistics, UVM).