Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are considered to be critical nutrients to regulate human health and development, and numerous fatty acid desaturases play key roles in synthesizing PUFAs. Given the lack of delta-12 and -15 desaturases and the low levels of conversion to PUFAs, humans must consume some omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in their diet. Many studies on fatty acid desaturases as well as PUFAs have shown that fatty acid desaturase genes are closely related to different human physiological conditions. Since the first front-end desaturases from cyanobacteria were cloned, numerous desaturase genes have been identified and animals and plants have been genetically engineered to produce PUFAs such as eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Recently, a biotechnological approach has been used to develop clinical treatments for human physiological conditions, including cancers and neurogenetic disorders. Thus, understanding the functions and regulation of PUFAs associated with human health and development by using biotechnology may facilitate the engineering of more advanced PUFA production and provide new insights into the complexity of fatty acid metabolism.
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