Systems Metabolic Lipidology

Group leader: Lars Hellgren

Lars Hellgren sadly passed away in June 2017. If you need information regarding any of Lars' projects or have other enquiries, please contact Head of DTU Bioengineering Bjarke Bak Christensen

In recent years, the central role of lipids and their metabolites in cellular regulation have gained more and more attention. Structure and function of cell membranes are to a large extent defined by their lipid-composition.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids and their metabolites in particular have key-roles in such diverse signalling events as regulation of inflammation, pain-perception and energy metabolism.  Ceramide, cholesterol and diacylglycerol are central intermediates in the pathology of metabolic diseases, inducing and driving the pathological development. The balance between different intermediates in the sphingolipid metabolism (sphingosine-1-phosphate and ceramide) is fundamental in cell-cycle control and is therefore important targets in cancer prevention and new therapeutic strategies.

In the Systems Metabolic Lipidology group, our focus is on metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids and sphingolipids. Our main interest is how dysregulation of these metabolic pathways are involved in disease development, focusing on obesity-related metabolic diseases, but also on other inflammatory-related diseases.

We give particular attention to early-life priming of these metabolic pathways, i. e. how different exposures in fetal- or early post-natal life can cause persistent changes in the metabolism. In collaboration with Professor Tine Rask Licht, Head of the research group Gut Microbiology and Immunology at DTU Food, we have recently developed an experimental system to study interactions between dietary lipids and the microbiota during gut colonization in early-life.  

The aim of our research is to identify new strategies for prevention of metabolic diseases, in particular through dietary interventions targeting lipid metabolism.

In our studies, we combine data from lipidomic-analysis, analysis of gene expression and classical biochemical methods, using multivariate statistical tools. Our lipid-analytical methods, which are largely based in the DTU Metabolomic Core, consist of LC-MS (primarily qTOF), HPLC-ELSD, GC-FID and GC-MS.

In order to maximize the translational value of our research we collaborate closely with clinicians and human nutritionist performing human intervention studies as well as with several of the major Danish industrial players in creating dietary and pharmaceutical applications of our research.