Ann Skulas-Ray, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences

EDUCATION & PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

  • Postdoctoral Fellowship - The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA
  • Ph.D., Nutrition, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA
  • B.S., Biochemistry, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA

RESEARCH & INTERESTS

My research focuses on exploring and refining the following questions: How can we improve nutritional strategies for reducing chronic inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk? And how can we best evaluate the efficacy of these potential therapies in human participants? Developing clinical research models that can more effectively study these dietary and supplement interventions is the overarching theme of my projects.

Research Areas

  • Clinical studies of omega-3 fatty acids and plant-derived bioactives on markers of metabolism, oxidative stress, central blood pressure, and indices of arterial stiffness using the SphygmoCor System
  • Clinical studies of inflammatory and oxidative stress responses using a human model of induced inflammation (intravenous endotoxin challenge)

Research Overview – Human Model of Induced Inflammation

Translating pre-clinical research findings into evidence-based recommendations that optimize human health has been a long standing challenge in nutrition research—largely due to the absence of consistent clinical trial evidence. My research attempts to overcome the barriers of pre-clinical to clinical translation by utilizing a human low dose (0.6 ng/kg) intravenous endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide, LPS) challenge model. This model safely produces an acute, controlled inflammatory response in healthy participants, with consistently-timed increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and TNF-α) and the acute phase reactant C-reactive protein (CRP), which peak at 2-3 hrs. and 24 hrs. post-injection, respectively. This type of model allows for a clinical research design in which omega-3 concentrations can be increased prior to the inflammatory insult and thereby modulate resulting signaling pathway cascades. We have also begun to identify inter-individual factors that may modulate the inflammatory response, including subjective sleep quality and gender, to further improve our sensitivity in detecting the effects of nutritional interventions. In our preliminary work, dietary doses of omega-3 fatty acids demonstrated the potential to reduce the inflammatory and oxidative stress response to this LPS challenge. My current and planned research projects build on this finding.

Selected Publications

  • Skulas-Ray AC, West SG, Davidson MH, Kris-Etherton PM. Omega-3 fatty acid concentrates in the treatment of moderate hypertriglyceridemia. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2008;9(7):1237-48. [Also published in Spanish]
  • Zurier RB, Sun YP, George KL, Stebulis JA, Rossetti RG, Skulas A, Judge E, Serhan CN. Ajulemic acid, a synthetic cannabinoid, increases formation of the endogenous proresolving and anti-inflammatory eicosanoid, lipoxin A4. FASEB J. 2009;23(5):1503-9.
  • Skulas-Ray AC, Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, Vanden Heuvel JP, Wagner PR, West SG. Dose-response effects of omega-3 fatty acids on triglycerides, inflammation, and endothelial function in healthy persons with moderate hypertriglyceridemia. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(2):243-52. [Faculty of 1000 selection, 4th most viewed article published in 2011]
  • Skulas-Ray AC, Kris-Etherton PM, Teeter DL, Chen CY, Vanden Heuvel JP, West SG. A high antioxidant spice blend attenuates postprandial insulin and triglyceride responses and increases some plasma measures of antioxidant activity in healthy, overweight men. J Nutr. 2011;141(8):1451-7.
  • Skulas-Ray AC, Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, West SG. Effects of marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids on systemic hemodynamics at rest and during stress: a dose-response study. Ann Behav Med. 2012;44(3):301–308.
  • Flock MR, Skulas-Ray AC, Harris WS, Etherton TD, Fleming JA, Kris-Etherton PM. Determinants of erythrocyte omega-3 fatty acid content in response to fish oil supplementation: a dose-response randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2013;2(6): e000513.
  • Flock MR, Skulas-Ray AC, Harris WS, Gaugler TL, Fleming JA, and Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of supplemental long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and erythrocyte membrane fatty acid content on circulating inflammatory markers in a randomized controlled trial of healthy adults. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids. 2014;91(4):161-168.
  • Richter CK, Skulas-Ray AC, and Kris-Etherton PM. Recent findings of studies on the Mediterranean Diet: What are the implications for current dietary recommendations? Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics North America 2014;43(4):963–980.
  • Skulas-Ray AC, Alaupovic P, Kris-Etherton PM, West SG. Dose Response Effects of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Apolipoproteins, Apolipoprotein-Defined Lipoprotein Subclasses, and Lp-PLA2 in Individuals with Moderate Hypertriglyceridemia. J Clin Lipidol. 2015;9(3):360-367.
  • Skulas-Ray AC, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammation: A Perspective on the Challenges of Evaluating Efficacy in Clinical Research. Prostaglandins & Other Lipid Mediators. 2015;116-117C:104-111
  • Skulas-Ray AC, Flock MR, Richter CK, Harris WS, West SG, Kris-Etherton PM. Red Blood Cell Docosapentaenoic Acid (DPA n-3) is Inversely Associated with Triglycerides and C-Reactive Protein (CRP) in Healthy Adults and Dose-Dependently Increases Following n-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation. Nutrients. 2015;7:6390-6404.
  • Richter Ck, Skulas-Ray AC, Champagne C, Kris-Etherton PM. Plant protein and animal protein: do they differentially affect cardiovascular Risk? Advances in Nutrition. (Accepted)