Updated on 17 January 2013
Dr Markus Wenk, associate professor with the department of biochemistry and department of biological sciences at National University of Singapore, is spearheading novel approaches in lipid analysis for enabling its application in development of drugs and biomarkers with relevance to various disease areas. Under his mentorship, Singapore is leveraging research and educational initiatives in lipidomics to develop novel tools to explore the role of lipids. Prof Wenk and his team are focusing on the practical applications of lipidomics, developing technologies and strategies for lipid analysis, and to introduce lipid-based biomarker and diagnostic tools for clinical applications.
Lipidomics as biomarkers
The application of lipidomics as a biomarker in ovarian cancer is one area that has captured the attention of Prof Wenk.
So far, diagnosis of ovarian cancer is done through physical examination, X-ray, and chemical and hematological studies that include protein and plasma testing on patients. Current diagnostic method of ovarian cancer is determined by the level of a protein called CA 125 that is produced by ovarian cancer cells. These proteins play the role of biomarker to detect ovarian cancer but they have their own set of limitations. The indication by this marker can go wrong as some ovarian cancer cells may not produce enough CA 125 to detect the growth of cells.
Since the existing diagnostic and prognostic tools are not adequate in predicting the onset of many diseases, advancements in biomarker are essential. It has better potential in tracking the growth of diseases and researchers are exploring the use of lysophophatidic acid (LPA) - a class of lipid, as a biomarker for ovarian cancer. LPA has been shown to stimulate the proliferation of ovarian cancer cells and has been found in the blood of ovarian cancer patients. As a biomarker, it has shown to have a sensitivity of 100 percent in advanced stage and almost 90 percent in the early stages.