Tracking fat parcels

This image shows the tracking of fat droplets in liver cells of mice.

Fat is vital for the structure and function of body cells, and problems with its metabolism can lead to a range of disorders.

Therefore, scientists are seeking ways to track fat metabolism to observe normal pathways and how they deviate – but with little success so far.

Researchers from the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn tried marking fatty acids with an additional triple bond, a so-called alkyne group.

When the product was added to liver cells – the “main hub” for fat metabolism – in mice, they found that the metabolic product bound to specific molecules.

Then, the compounds collided with gas molecules causing them to decompose into specific substances, and the markings finally became visible.

“This decay reaction produces very strong signals for the marked lipids in the mass spectrometer,” says first author Christoph Thiele.

However, the process still isn’t quite ready for human experiments.

“We don’t know exactly what the fatty acids coupled to alkyne groups do in the human body when they are ingested with food,” says Thiele.

The full report is published in the journal Nature Methods.

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