A Closer Look at Lipids

Study aims to detail their role in major illnesses

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FRIDAY, Sept. 5, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A five-year, $35 million grant to study lipids and their role in heart disease, arthritis and other major illnesses has been awarded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Genes and proteins are often the focus of biomedical research. But lipid fats and oils often have a more direct effect on human health.

The grant was given to the Lipid Metabolites and Pathways Strategy (MAPS) Consortium, a collaborative effort led by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Researchers taking part in the project will try to identify and measure the amounts of all lipids within a cell. This information will provide information about how lipids interact with each other and with the inner structures of human cells at varying times and locations.

It's also expected that the project will yield new tools, methods and technologies for sorting out and measuring the changing levels of the 1,000 or more different lipids in a given cell.

Lipids, which are essential to life, come in a wide variety and have many different functions within a cell. Among those functions, lipids can be stored as an energy reserve, make up cell membranes, and are involved in communication within and between cells.

Lipid imbalances cause or play a role in numerous diseases, such as high cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, sepsis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

"Lipids are the most important biomolecules because they are the ultimate controllers and regulators of our bodily processes," Edward Dennis, principal investigator and a chemistry and biochemistry professor at UCSD, says in a news release.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about the Lipid MAPS Consortium.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, August 2003

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