Researchers at QUT have made a significant discovery in the field of lipid research. They have identified 103 new unsaturated fatty acids in human samples, effectively doubling the previously known number of these essential building blocks of life found in human blood plasma. The findings, detailed in an article published in Nature Communications, were made possible through the use of an innovative analytical technique developed by the QUT team in collaboration with researchers from Adelaide and Prague.
Professor Stephen Blanksby, from the QUT Center for Materials Science, explained that lipids serve various crucial roles in the body. Some form cell membranes, while others act as precursors for signaling molecules that regulate inflammation and its resolution. Changes in fatty acids and other lipids can provide valuable insights into health and disease, making these newly discovered molecules potentially significant in understanding the body’s response to diet and illness.
The QUT researchers employed advanced analytical technology to explore the human lipidome in greater depth than was previously achievable. This breakthrough opens the door to more sensitive and selective diagnostic tests. Dr. Jan Philipp Menzel, a postdoctoral fellow in the QUT School of Chemistry and Physics, played a vital role in the discovery. He developed custom software to analyze the complex datasets obtained by the team and identify the novel lipids.
The researchers utilized a combination of liquid chromatography and a modified mass spectrometer capable of a gas-phase reaction with ozone. This reaction broke down the carbon-carbon double bonds present in unsaturated fatty acids. By applying this technique to study human blood plasma, cancer cells, and vernix caseosa (a white substance that covers newborns), the researchers uncovered new and distinct fatty acids in each sample. Some of these fatty acids may originate from food consumption, while others are likely products of human metabolism.
Dr. Menzel emphasized the need for global scientific collaboration to fully comprehend the biological significance of the identified fatty acids. The newly discovered omega-3 fatty acids found in vernix caseosa, for instance, exhibit unusual patterns of double bonds. Further research is required to understand their precise functions and potential health benefits. By identifying biomolecules with unique structures, researchers can gain insights into new metabolic pathways and potentially develop diagnostic methods and treatments.
Overall, this groundbreaking research expands our knowledge of the human lipidome and offers promising prospects for advancements in diagnostics and therapeutics.