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Student research project

Supervisors: Professor Peter Meikle and Dr Corey Giles

Research focus

The Metabolomics laboratory uses state-of-the-art tandem mass spectrometry to obtain metabolic/lipid profiles from cell and animal models in addition to clinically relevant human samples to develop new approaches to diagnosis, risk assessment and therapy for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Project summary

Type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease are major causes of morbidity and mortality in Australia. A number of lipids and lipoproteins have been identified as useful indicators and predictors of both type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis (i.e. cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides). However, these provide only a restricted picture and a limited interpretation of the disease risk/status of an individual. It is now becoming clear that many other lipid types are altered during disease onset and progression and it is likely that some/many of these are involved in disease pathogenesis. We have an ongoing program of method development and biomarker discovery to identify and validate new lipid biomarkers of disease (1–4).

We hypothesise that: the major differences in the plasma lipid profiles between healthy and type 2 diabetes or coronary artery disease precede the clinical presentation and so will be useful to predict disease outcomes.

The specific aims are to:

  • Perform plasma lipid profiling on patient cohorts that have been clinically phenotyped (type 2 diabetes or coronary artery disease).
  • Determine the plasma lipid profiles that are correlated with the burden of disease and use this to develop predictive models to identify individuals at increased risk of a disease onset and progression.

The primary outcome of this project will be the development of a plasma lipid profiling test to enable the early detection of patients at increased risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. In addition we will develop methods to monitor treatment. Identification of individuals prior to the development of disease will enable early intervention and will have a profound effect on the health of the Australian population.

This project is suitable for a PhD student and will use our laboratories novel lipidomic approach to generate lipid profiles from patient cohorts at different stages of disease to identify those lipids and lipid profiles that are specifically associated with disease onset and progression.

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  1. Lipidomic risk score independently and cost-effectively predicts risk of future type 2 diabetes: results from diverse cohorts. Lipids Health Dis 2016, 15: 67.
  2. Plasma lipidomic profiles improve on traditional risk factors for the prediction of cardiovascular events in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Circulation 2016, 134: 1637–1650.
  3. Inclusion of plasma lipid species improves classification of individuals at risk of type 2 diabetes. PLoS One 2013, 8: e76577.
  4. Plasma lipid profiling in a large population-based cohort. J Lipid Res 2013 54: 2898–2908.

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