Common lipids such as cholesterol are known to play an important part in the normal functioning of cells and tissues, but human cells contain thousands of different lipids which are also vital for functions that include storing energy, maintaining the structure of the cell and sending biochemical signals. Scientists are discovering that if the biochemical pathways that regulate the metabolism and transport of these lipids become disturbed, this can result in disease.
A report* published today by the European Science Foundation (ESF) urges greater cooperation among researchers and more investment in the field of 'lipidomics' – the term given to the identification and analysis of the full complement of lipids in cells, tissues and body fluids, together with associated molecular structures such as enzymes and genes. The document is the output of a science policy activity led by the European Medical Research Councils (EMRC), the medical section within ESF.
The ESF science policy briefing document, drawn up by an international panel of experts led by Professor Gerrit van Meer of Utrecht University in The Netherlands and Professor Friedrich Spener of the University of Graz in Austria, says that the study of lipids has been largely neglected because until recently technology did not exist to analyse this complex class of molecules comprehensively. However, the application of an analytical technique called mass spectrometry now allows large numbers of lipids to be analysed rapidly. "This remarkable technological breakthrough will make it possible to better understand the cellular machineries that are responsible for producing and storing energy in cells, for the transport across and between cell membranes and for the signalling in and out of cells to name but a few examples," the report states.
A concerted research effort in lipidomics would help shed light on conditions ranging from obesity and heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer's, the report says, while pointing out that the number of European researchers with expertise in lipidomics is low and that increased funding is needed to help Europe to catch up with the level of research in countries such as Japan and the US.
The science policy briefing makes several key recommendations that would boost lipidomics research in Europe:
Investment in research programmes aimed at training biomedical scientists in lipid-related fields
Investment in further development of technologies for studying lipids, while establishing and maintaining strong links between technology developers and researchers
Development of a strong, coordinated and interdisciplinary research effort across Europe to understand lipid function and the roles of lipids in health and disease
Integration of European lipid databases and the facilitation of their communication with other databases worldwide. This would allow the 'holistic' interpretation of lipid data and provide a greater understanding of the role of lipids in health and disease.
Professor van Meer said, "Lipidomics not only involves the study of lipids, but it also involves enzymes, transporters, genes, proteins, and their biophysics. The challenge is to unite all these different datasets and bring them together with disease pathology in one concentrated database." Such an approach would provide invaluable new insights into diagnosing, monitoring and even curing disease, Professor van Meer added.
Professor Gerrit van Meer | EurekAlert!
Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy