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Laboratory head: Associate Professor Peter Meikle

Meikle LaboratoryMetabolomics is the systematic study of the unique metabolite (small-molecule) fingerprints of biological systems. The Metabolomics Laboratory uses state-of-the-art tandem mass spectrometry to obtain metabolic profiles (primarily lipids and fats) from cell and animal models, in addition to clinically relevant human samples to better characterise the dyslipidemia associated with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and its relationship to the pathogenesis of these disease states. These studies are leading to new approaches to early diagnosis, risk assessment and therapeutic monitoring of these most prevalent diseases in our society.

One of the main goals of the laboratory is to better understand the difference between stable and unstable coronary disease. At present there is no way of knowing which people among a group with what we know as ‘stable’ coronary disease will develop ‘unstable’ disease. This is a critical area of investigation as stable disease can become unstable — leading to sudden heart attack and stroke — at any time. In many cases the first sign that their disease is unstable is death, yet others live long lives with stable disease — partial blockages in the coronary arteries that do not undergo significant change.

Recent funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NHMRC and other funding bodies has enabled studies to characterise the changes in blood plasma lipids and fats associated with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These studies will not only improve our understanding of the reasons why people develop disease but will help to develop new tests to identify those at greatest risk of developing these diseases.

Our studies into lipid metabolism associated with chronic disease have identified a specific class of lipid (plasmalogens) as a potential therapeutic target for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Recent animal studies to increase the levels of circulating and tissue plasmalogens have shown promising results and we expect to move into clinical trials in the near future.

Research focus

  • Changes in lipid metabolism associated with coronary artery disease
  • Risk assessment for unstable coronary artery disease: identification of the "vulnerable patient"
  • The relationship between lipid metabolism, obesity and diabetes: why do some obese people get diabetes but not others?
  • Risk assessment for diabetes
  • The use of plasma lipids for therapeutic monitoring
  • The relationship between lipoprotein composition and function
  • Modulation of plasmalogens for prevention and treatment of chronic disease

Projects

Prediction of unstable coronary artery disease

Metabolomic studies into the pathogenesis and risk assessment of type 2 diabetes

Lipidomic analysis of the FIELD Trial: mechanism of action and prediction of response to fenofibrate treatment in type 2 diabetes

Plasmalogen modulation: A new treatment for metabolic and cardiovascular disease

The role of hepatocyte phospholipid metabolism in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Student research opportunities

High density lipoprotein and oxidised lipids in the prediction of acute coronary syndromes

Plasma lipid profiling in type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease

Plasmalogen modulation as a treatment for atherosclerosis

Staff

Dr Kaushala Jayawardana

Dr Husna Begum

Jacqui Weir

Natalie Mellett

Michelle Cinel

Anmar Anwar (PhD Student)

Kang-Yu Peng (PhD Student)

Yow Keat Tham (PhD Student)

Kevin Huynh (PhD Student)

Sudip Paul (PhD Student)

Kevin Culham (BMedSci Hons Student)

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With the rising number of Australians affected by diabetes, heart disease and stroke, the need for research is more critical than ever.

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