Summary of the Research Program
One of the most important functions of lipids is to serve as a structural basis of biological membranes. Besides this, lipids are established as important inter- and intracellular signalling molecules. Over the past few years it has become clear that specific alterations in lipid metabolism play an important role in the initiation and progression of important diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, inflammation, organ fibrosis, pain as well as neurodegenerative diseases. This means that the molecular components of specific lipid signalling pathways are potential targets for novel therapeutics. Lipid metabolism generates signalling molecules of exceptional variability and complexity but the analytical methods used to detect lipid intermediates have been improved and potent therapeutics directed against lipids and lipid signalling have been introduced into the market. Therefore, interest in this area is steadily increasing and lipid signalling is on its way becoming a central topic in translational research. Our Collaborative Research Centre focusses on two classes of lipid molecules: fatty acids and their derivatives and signalling molecules derived from sphingolipids. The projects focus on the regulation of cellular responses such as proliferation, differentiation and cell integrity and address four major research areas: (i) Inflammation, fibrosis and pain research, (ii) Barrier protection (iii) Regulation of metabolism and (iv) Immune defence and tumour development. Projects will address specific questions such as: (1) How do lipid signalling molecules regulate gene expression in acute and chronic inflammation and in the resolution of inflammation? (2) How do lipids modulate epigenetic mechanisms? (3) How do lipids and matrix molecules interact in cellular signalling? (4) How do lipids modulate protein signalling cascades in cell death and disease? We are confident that a detailed understanding of the lipid signalling networks that are the focus of our research will lead the way to the development of innovative therapeutics for the treatment of several acute and chronic diseases.