Lipidomics is the detailed survey of the lipid fraction of biological samples to gain insight into energy storage, energy distribution, and structural changes at the membrane level. The ‘lipidome’ is the complete lipid profile of a cell, tissue, organism etc.
Lipid profiling studies are typically based on plasma or serum samples from large numbers of human participants. This type of sample set can give a useful snapshot of the metabolic or disease status of the participants but cannot be used to answer all questions. Lipid profiling of more than one tissue is needed to gain an understanding of the lipid metabolism within and between organs, such as the liver and brain, across the life-course. However, the fibrous components of organs can mean that the lipid fraction is less accessible than it is in serum and enzymes may be present that modify the lipids present, corrupting the final lipid profile. A high-throughput approach is therefore more challenging.
Encouraged to work together by a Director’s Collaborative Award, Denise Fernandez-Twinn (Ozanne group) and Samuel Furse (Koulman group) have developed a new approach that allows access to the lipid fraction of a variety of tissues and will enable researchers to answer additional questions and test new hypotheses. They describe a platform for surveying the lipid fraction of a range of tissues, demonstrated using seven different tissues (serum, brain, heart, kidney, adipose, liver, and vastus lateralis muscle) from mice that were either obese or lean. They showed that the lipid metabolism in some tissues is affected more by obesity than others.
Their methods will be particularly useful for metabolic studies as they allow the effect of phenotypes such as obesity to be understood in different organ systems and compared. The approach paves the way for the development of bioinformatics tools focused on lipid metabolism.