MASSTRPLAN – MASS spectometry TRaining network for Protein Lipid adduct ANalysis

Project Description – Non-specialist

Diseases related to disorders such as high blood pressure, insulin resistance and high blood LDL/cholesterol levels are currently the cause of major health problems in modern society and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. In the EU 33 million people suffer from diabetes and 50% of the total population are at risk of obesity [1,2].

These conditions are part of something called metabolic syndrome and are linked to increased inflammation. Damaging compounds are produced that attack molecules in the human body, by adding oxygen atoms (referred to as oxidation). In situations where there is excess fat (also known as “lipid”) such as cholesterol and triglycerides circulating in the blood, the lipid molecules can be attacked and oxidized. These oxidized lipids become sticky (like old cooking oil) and interact with the proteins and cells in the body, changing their behaviour.

MASSTRPLAN is a European Network Project training 14 young researchers in 6 different countries.  The focus of this training network is on the effects of the “sticky lipids” that occur in high-fat inflammatory conditions and are thought to contribute to the cellular malfunctions in cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

The researchers are studying the proteins that are attacked by “sticky lipids”, how this changes the function of these proteins, and why this makes cells behave in a way that causes disease. As the “sticky lipids” and “sticky-lipid-proteins” are thought to be potential markers for early stages of disease, the project is also developing new methods of detecting them, mainly using an advanced technique called mass spectrometry.  This technique is used to identify molecules by their mass, but also specific antibodies are produced to be used in simple “point-of-care tests” in the patients’ homes or general practitioners surgeries, similar in design to pregnancy test kits that can be purchased over the counter.