Leading scientists today called for Europe to invest more funds into the study of lipids the 'fatty' molecules that play a crucial role in the function of human cells and which are implicated in a range of diseases from obesity and diabetes to Alzheimer's.
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
|Contact: Professor Gerrit van Meer|
European Science Foundation