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1.  Prediction of non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease and liver fat content by serum molecular lipids 
Diabetologia  2013;56:2266-2274.
We examined whether analysis of lipids by ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to MS allows the development of a laboratory test for non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease (NAFLD), and how a lipid-profile biomarker compares with the prediction of NAFLD and liver-fat content based on routinely available clinical and laboratory data.
We analysed the concentrations of molecular lipids by UPLC-MS in blood samples of 679 well-characterised individuals in whom liver-fat content was measured using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) or liver biopsy. The participants were divided into biomarker-discovery (n = 287) and validation (n = 392) groups to build and validate the diagnostic models, respectively.
Individuals with NAFLD had increased triacylglycerols with low carbon number and double-bond content while lysophosphatidylcholines and ether phospholipids were diminished in those with NAFLD. A serum-lipid signature comprising three molecular lipids (‘lipid triplet’) was developed to estimate the percentage of liver fat. It had a sensitivity of 69.1% and specificity of 73.8% when applied for diagnosis of NAFLD in the validation series. The usefulness of the lipid triplet was demonstrated in a weight-loss intervention study.
The liver-fat-biomarker signature based on molecular lipids may provide a non-invasive tool to diagnose NAFLD, in addition to highlighting lipid molecular pathways involved in the disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00125-013-2981-2) contains peer-reviewed but unedited supplementary material, which is available to authorised users.
PMCID: PMC3764317  PMID: 23824212
Lipidomics; Mass spectrometry; Non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease
2.  Association of Lipidome Remodeling in the Adipocyte Membrane with Acquired Obesity in Humans 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(6):e1000623.
The authors describe a new approach to studying cellular lipid profiles and propose a compensatory mechanism that may help maintain the normal membrane function of adipocytes in the context of obesity.
Identification of early mechanisms that may lead from obesity towards complications such as metabolic syndrome is of great interest. Here we performed lipidomic analyses of adipose tissue in twin pairs discordant for obesity but still metabolically compensated. In parallel we studied more evolved states of obesity by investigating a separated set of individuals considered to be morbidly obese. Despite lower dietary polyunsaturated fatty acid intake, the obese twin individuals had increased proportions of palmitoleic and arachidonic acids in their adipose tissue, including increased levels of ethanolamine plasmalogens containing arachidonic acid. Information gathered from these experimental groups was used for molecular dynamics simulations of lipid bilayers combined with dependency network analysis of combined clinical, lipidomics, and gene expression data. The simulations suggested that the observed lipid remodeling maintains the biophysical properties of lipid membranes, at the price, however, of increasing their vulnerability to inflammation. Conversely, in morbidly obese subjects, the proportion of plasmalogens containing arachidonic acid in the adipose tissue was markedly decreased. We also show by in vitro Elovl6 knockdown that the lipid network regulating the observed remodeling may be amenable to genetic modulation. Together, our novel approach suggests a physiological mechanism by which adaptation of adipocyte membranes to adipose tissue expansion associates with positive energy balance, potentially leading to higher vulnerability to inflammation in acquired obesity. Further studies will be needed to determine the cause of this effect.
Author Summary
Obesity is characterized by excess body fat, which is predominantly stored in the adipose tissue. When adipose tissue expands too much it stops storing lipid appropriately. The excess lipid accumulates in organs such as muscle, liver, and pancreas, causing metabolic disease. In this study, we aim to identify factors that cause adipose tissue to malfunction when it reaches its limit of expansion. We performed lipidomic analyses of human adipose tissue in twin pairs discordant for obesity—that is, one of the twins was lean and one was obese—but still metabolically healthy. We identified multiple changes in membrane phospholipids. Using computer modeling, we show that “lean” and “obese” membrane lipid compositions have the same physical properties despite their different compositions. We hypothesize that this represents allostasis—changes in lipid membrane composition in obesity occur to protect the physical properties of the membranes. However, protective changes cannot occur without a cost, and accordingly we demonstrate that switching to the “obese” lipid composition is associated with higher levels of adipose tissue inflammation. In a separate group of metabolically unhealthy obese individuals we investigated how the processes that regulate the “lean” and “obese” lipid profiles are changed. To determine how these lipid membrane changes are regulated we constructed an in silico network model that identified key control points and potential molecular players. We validated this network by performing genetic manipulations in cell models. Therapeutic targeting of this network may open new opportunities for the prevention or treatment of obesity-related metabolic complications.
PMCID: PMC3110175  PMID: 21666801
3.  MZmine 2: Modular framework for processing, visualizing, and analyzing mass spectrometry-based molecular profile data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:395.
Mass spectrometry (MS) coupled with online separation methods is commonly applied for differential and quantitative profiling of biological samples in metabolomic as well as proteomic research. Such approaches are used for systems biology, functional genomics, and biomarker discovery, among others. An ongoing challenge of these molecular profiling approaches, however, is the development of better data processing methods. Here we introduce a new generation of a popular open-source data processing toolbox, MZmine 2.
A key concept of the MZmine 2 software design is the strict separation of core functionality and data processing modules, with emphasis on easy usability and support for high-resolution spectra processing. Data processing modules take advantage of embedded visualization tools, allowing for immediate previews of parameter settings. Newly introduced functionality includes the identification of peaks using online databases, MSn data support, improved isotope pattern support, scatter plot visualization, and a new method for peak list alignment based on the random sample consensus (RANSAC) algorithm. The performance of the RANSAC alignment was evaluated using synthetic datasets as well as actual experimental data, and the results were compared to those obtained using other alignment algorithms.
MZmine 2 is freely available under a GNU GPL license and can be obtained from the project website at: The current version of MZmine 2 is suitable for processing large batches of data and has been applied to both targeted and non-targeted metabolomic analyses.
PMCID: PMC2918584  PMID: 20650010
4.  Feasibility, Drug Safety, and Effectiveness of Etiological Treatment Programs for Chagas Disease in Honduras, Guatemala, and Bolivia: 10-Year Experience of Médecins Sans Frontières 
Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis) is a zoonotic or anthropozoonotic disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Predominantly affecting populations in poor areas of Latin America, medical care for this neglected disease is often lacking. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has provided diagnostic and treatment services for Chagas disease since 1999. This report describes 10 years of field experience in four MSF programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and Bolivia, focusing on feasibility protocols, safety of drug therapy, and treatment effectiveness.
From 1999 to 2008, MSF provided free diagnosis, etiological treatment, and follow-up care for patients <18 years of age seropositive for T. cruzi in Yoro, Honduras (1999–2002); Olopa, Guatemala (2003–2006); Entre Ríos, Bolivia (2002–2006); and Sucre, Bolivia (2005–2008). Essential program components guaranteeing feasibility of implementation were information, education, and communication (IEC) at the community and family level; vector control; health staff training; screening and diagnosis; treatment and compliance, including family-based strategies for early detection of adverse events; and logistics. Chagas disease diagnosis was confirmed by testing blood samples using two different diagnostic tests. T. cruzi-positive patients were treated with benznidazole as first-line treatment, with appropriate counseling, consent, and active participation from parents or guardians for daily administration of the drug, early detection of adverse events, and treatment withdrawal, when necessary. Weekly follow-up was conducted, with adverse events recorded to assess drug safety. Evaluations of serological conversion were carried out to measure treatment effectiveness. Vector control, entomological surveillance, and health education activities were carried out in all projects with close interaction with national and regional programs.
Total numbers of children and adolescents tested for T. cruzi in Yoro, Olopa, Entre Ríos, and Sucre were 24,471, 8,927, 7,613, and 19,400, respectively. Of these, 232 (0.9%), 124 (1.4%), 1,475 (19.4%), and 1,145 (5.9%) patients, respectively, were diagnosed as seropositive. Patients were treated with benznidazole, and early findings of seroconversion varied widely between the Central and South American programs: 87.1% and 58.1% at 18 months post-treatment in Yoro and Olopa, respectively; 5.4% by up to 60 months in Entre Ríos; and 0% at an average of 18 months in Sucre. Benznidazole-related adverse events were observed in 50.2% and 50.8% of all patients treated in Yoro and Olopa, respectively, and 25.6% and 37.9% of patients in Entre Ríos and Sucre, respectively. Most adverse events were mild and manageable. No deaths occurred in the treatment population.
These results demonstrate the feasibility of implementing Chagas disease diagnosis and treatment programs in resource-limited settings, including remote rural areas, while addressing the limitations associated with drug-related adverse events. The variability in apparent treatment effectiveness may reflect differences in patient and parasite populations, and illustrates the limitations of current treatments and measures of efficacy. New treatments with improved safety profiles, pediatric formulations of existing and new drugs, and a faster, reliable test of cure are all urgently needed.
Author Summary
Chagas disease was discovered 100 years ago by the Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas. Predominantly affecting poor populations throughout Latin America, recognition and treatment of this parasitic disease are often neglected. Since 1999, the international medical humanitarian aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has offered diagnostic and therapeutic care for Chagas disease, and here we describe four of our programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and Bolivia, 1999–2008. The earliest programs focused on treating young children and in subsequent programs expanded up to 18 years of age. We identified six program components essential for project viability: information, education, and communication; vector control; health staff training; screening and diagnosis; treatment and compliance; and logistics. The number of children and adolescents screened for Chagas disease ranged from over 7,500 to nearly 25,000 in each program. Early analysis of cure rates ranged widely: from 87% and 58%, respectively, in Honduras and Guatemala, to 0%–5% in Bolivia. No deaths occurred in any of the programs, though drug-related side effects were observed in a quarter to half of all patients. Through our findings and experience, we discuss the feasibility, safety, and effectiveness of treatment programs for Chagas disease in resource-limited settings.
PMCID: PMC2700957  PMID: 19582142

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