A global consortium of 450 lipid scientists celebrates the fourth year of transformative research and public engagement
In a remarkable three-year journey, EpiLipidNET, an international consortium of 450 lipid scientists, clinicians, scientific societies, and enterprises from 47 countries is celebrating its extraordinary accomplishments in the field of lipid research, education, and public awareness. With a strong EU-based presence, this collaborative effort has not only resulted in significant scientific impact but has also been committed to disseminating knowledge within and beyond academic circles.
Fats and oils known as lipids, are very important substances in the body. The balance of lipids in the body is crucial for our health, and an imbalance can lead to multiple diseases. Lipid research is currently in the spotlight of scientific and industrial interests given that lipids, with many activities and functions, are crucial players in human metabolism. Lipids are also an important source of energy in our diet and as such need to be closely analysed in various food sources including animal and non-animal products such as plants and in novel foods, such as meat replacers and plant-based milk.
In 2020, to tackle the diversity of lipids, their significance, and their applications, EpiLipidNET COST Action, a Pan-European Network in Lipidomics and EpiLipidomics, established a leading EU-based platform by reaching out to basic researchers, medical professionals, industries, and anyone with an interest in the latest developments in lipids research.
EpiLipidNET’s journey has been marked by an impressive number of scientific discoveries, evidenced by more than 50 scientific publications, each contributing cutting-edge insights into the complex world of lipids. By joining forces in an open science environment, our community delivered a range of innovative technologies that pushed the borders beyond the state-of-the-art in the analysis of lipids and their modified forms.
Modern lipidomics, the study of the lipid profile of cells in a large scale, produce a lot of data, and thus EpiLipidNET also invested in developing bioinformatics tools to help researchers to analyse lipids in cells, tissues, and organisms, and to understand their biological functions.
Using these enabling technologies, EpiLipidNET has influenced biomedical and healthcare research by fostering the development of personalised medicine and potential biomarkers for predictive, preventive, and personalised healthcare, and moving towards clinical translation of lipidomics.
For instance, in support of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, one of the focuses of EpiLipidNET researchers is on complex human diseases such as cancer. Here, by looking at the disease through the prism of lipid metabolism, we discover new markers and improve therapy responses to significantly increase the survival of cancer patients. Efforts in this direction included the participation of EpiLipidNET at the COST Connect on coordinating cancer research in Europe to exchange knowledge, foster collaborations, and accelerate progress in the fight against cancer.
EpiLipidNET network has grown into the EU hub for the research on natural lipidome diversity including marine organisms, thus contributing to the EU Mission in the protection and restoration of ocean health. The Plant and Algae Lipidomics interest group within EpiLipidNET COST Action brings together experts with an interest in leveraging the knowledge and added value of plant lipids for food and biotechnology industries, in line with Green Deal, and Farm to Fork EU initiatives.
The Food Lipidomic interest group is leveraging major highlights on the position of lipids as key nutrients that impact our daily life, their beneficial effects on human health, significance in food quality and security worldwide, aligned with the Food 2030 EU initiative. These efforts will provide practical insights into the composition and function of lipids in food, an understanding of their nutritional values, and better quality control measures, thus fostering consumer and policymaker awareness.
The multidisciplinary nature of EpiLipidNET requires a vivid exchange of expertise and knowledge, which was made possible via diverse COST networking instruments – scientific meetings, summer schools, and training courses as well as Short-Term Scientific Missions that allow scientists to visit other laboratories or research facilities to broaden their skills and efficiently support networking. All of it is actively used by the EpiLipidNET community to create and better diffuse the existing knowledge. Over the last 3 years, EpiLipidNET supported an incredible 43 Short-Term Scientific Missions to promote the exchange of knowledge, technologies, and expertise all across Europe, reinforcing the impact of research and innovation potential.
Recognising the need for a broader understanding, EpiLipidNET is also proactively raiseing public awareness about lipids. This has been achieved through events such as outreach programs, seminars, and engaging social media campaigns.
An example of such an initiative is the contribution to European Researchers’ Night, a Europe-wide public event to raise awareness of scientific research and its impact on citizens’ daily lives in fun, inspiring ways, and the design and development of an educational board game suite for raising awareness of lipids and health, which will be officially published in 2024.
“Amazing to see how many ideas come up if people with different backgrounds simply sit around one table and discuss possible solutions for a given problem. Diversity of expertise is the key!”Dr Maria Fedorova, Vice-Chair of EpiLipidNET