Lipids play a central role in cellular function and disease. The scope of lipid involvement in cellular function has only recently been recognized to extend well beyond its established roles in energy metabolism and membrane structure. Lipids are an extensive group of small, amphipathic molecules that are divided into a series of classes based on structure and their biosynthetic origins. Still, all of these compounds possess many similar chemical and physical properties. Because of these similarities, the metabolic pathways that deal with lipids are complex and intertwined. Developing an integrated metabolomic system capable of characterizing the global changes in lipid metabolites (""""""""lipidomics"""""""") is a daunting task but one that it is important to undertake in light of the significant returns produced by the global approaches of genomics and proteomics. Our consortium has developed a Lipid Metabolites And Pathways Strategy, termed LIPID MAPS that applies a global integrated approach to the study of lipidomics.
The specific aim of LIPID MAPS for this grant period is to develop the requisite technology and conduct an integrated research program that will establish lipidomics as a fully functioning research field. By employing a rigorously maintained set of common biological, biochemical, and analytical technologies in each of the consortium laboratories, and by using an extensive informatics infrastructure, we will be able to integrate and analyze the large amount of data that will be generated by this large scale collaborative project. We will be able to generate """"""""road maps"""""""" that will define how all of the lipid components of a cell move through the complex lipidomic network from biosynthesis to removal, including their important roles as second messengers. All of this information will be shared with the entire research community and should greatly aid in the development of metabolomics for other systems. In addition, LIPID MAPS should also aid in drug development since lipids play critical roles in numerous diseases, including inflammatory processes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, cancer and stroke. Despite the clear benefits that developing a lipidomics field would produce, no large scale national or international programs for such a study exist. We believe that the experimental technologies are now in hand for establishing the field of lipidomics and that LIPID MAPS represents a viable strategy for achieving this goal. This would lead to the integration of lipids into the general focus of 21st Century biology; namely, into a fully quantitative systems-level biology.
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