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!
New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs
18.04.2019 | University of Hawaii at Manoa
New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection
18.04.2019 | Polytechnique Montréal
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.
Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...
The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...
Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.
Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...
Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna
A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
09.04.2019 | Event News
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences
18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
18.04.2019 | Life Sciences