HELSINKI, March 10, 2023 – Lipidomics Consulting Ltd, a front-running lipidomics company that is fundamentally changing how understanding the mechanistic and metabolic details of lipids are investigated in disease, together with scientists at University of Wollongong (UoW) and Aspect Analytics NV have received a grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) and its partner the Shake It Up Australia Foundation. With this funding the group will work to identify alterations in the metabolism of selective glycosphingolipids in specific brain regions that contribute to early Parkinson’s onset and accelerated progression rates.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects more than 6 million people worldwide. Glycosphingolipids (GSLs) are natural cellular fats and part of the PD epidemiology. They are components of cellular membranes that fulfil multiple functional roles, from cell structure and transport to signalling. However, the contribution of glycosphingolipids within PD brain regions is not fully understood.
Mutations in the GBA1 gene are a major risk for PD. GBA1 encodes an enzyme that breaks down lipids called glucocerebrosidase (GCase). The homozygous mutations in GBA increase the risk for Gaucher disease (GD) while the heterozygous mutations increase the risk for PD. “Our initial work, supported by MJFF, using preclinical models with mutations in the GBA1 gene, suggests selective region-specific lipid enrichments throughout the GCase deficient mouse brain. However, we do not know how well the lipid findings translate to human sporadic (iPD) and GBA1-PD patients,” said Dr Kim Ekroos, founder and CEO of Lipidomics Consulting Ltd. “Combining mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) and high-resolution ion mobility (HRIM) has been a true game changer, permitting us to see what has not been seen before in brains of GBA1 deficient rodents. With this funding support from The Michael J. Fox Foundation, we can now utilize the same approach, together with advanced deep learning computational approaches, on human PD and GD post-mortem brains and identify in what ways the GSL metabolism can be restored.”
The assembled international team brings together the diverse expertise needed to dissect the metabolic GSL map in PD. Dr Shane Ellis at UoW is a world-leading expert in lipid MSI, and Dr Nico Verbeeck at Aspect Analytics is a leading expert in MSI data analysis and machine learning. Dr. Nathan Hatcher, a Principal Scientist at the Department of Neuroscience at MSD, along with Prof. Roy Alcalay, chief of the Movement Disorders Division at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, are providing expertise in PD preclinical translation, metabolism, and clinical neurology.
“With the collaborations established, we can now start to understand and visualise, for the first time, the changes in glycosphingolipid composition occurring in brain regions of iPD, GBA1-PD and GD patients,” said Dr Ellis. “There is very little known about the role of changes in glycosphingolipid metabolism in distinct brain regions of PD. We know it is important, but we don’t know exactly where in the brain, nor which lipids and via what metabolic processes these changes are happening.”
About Lipidomics Consulting Ltd.
Lipidomics Consulting is fundamentally advancing disease biology by providing the cutting-edge experience, skills and know-how in lipids and lipidomics. For more information, visit www.lipidomicsconsulting.com and connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
About the University of Wollongong
A research-intensive global university, University of Wollongong (UOW) has become a benchmark for Australia’s new generation of universities. It is ranked among the top modern universities in the world and has built a reputation as an enterprising institution, with a multi-disciplinary approach to research and a personalised approach to teaching. More information can be found at uow.edu.au.
About Aspect Analytics
Aspect Analytics develops enterprise software to analyze and integrate spatial omics data. Aspect’s platform bridges the gap between bioinformatics research and practical applications, providing a range of tools to optimize the extraction of knowledge from spatial omics data, including data management, spatial registration and downstream machine learning. Aspect’s software solutions enable seamless integration of spatial data across multiple modalities, providing users with a more holistic view of the underlying biology. Visit www.aspect-analytics.com for more information.