For research scientists, their name 'lipid rafts' sounds like an invitation to travel into the heart of the plasmic membrane. This is where these particular microdomaines with a very distinctive lipid and protein composition are located. The rafts are especially interesting as they seem to play a subtle role in cell signaling, explaining the emergence of a new technology called 'raftomics'. Several teams from Burgundy and Franche-Comté Universities are working on uncovering the mechanisms governing membrane dynamics and their role in cell adaptive response in various models. The scientists are conducting the research with clinical, therapeutic, environmental, food and nutrition purposes.
It is now widely accepted that the environment and lifestyle have a major impact on human health. Similarly, animal or plant cell systems are impacted by their microenvironment that conditions cell response. However, the cell membrane is the first to be exposed to these changes. So, it becomes the seat of initiating events involved in its structuring, dynamics and composition, thus in signal translation, gene modulation, cell interactions or molecule penetration into the organism through drugs nutriments, or even microorganisms. Researchers have recently discovered 'lipid rafts', somewhat like 50 to 200 nanometer-long mobile platforms whose structure and dynamics will depend on their lipid and protein composition. "For instance, a modulation of the phospholipids and their fatty acids, especially polyunsaturated fats, will alter membrane fluidity, causing a change in membrane dynamics, in receptor regrouping or in molecule penetration via the rafts," explained Jean-Louis Junien, in charge of development at the Welience Health Hub.
Although the microdomaines or rafts make it possible to locate and collect the ingredients required for numerous cell processes, they can also play a role in the quantitative response. The sequestration of the key proteins of the rafts generate a regulating center of signaling channel activity. The generated feedback loops are needed so that the cell response can adapt various agonists according to their dosages and their application time to specific physiological functions. "The disorganization or modification of raft assembly and ingredients may also cause the reprogramming of cell response. Therefore, it could be processed to develop new nutritional and therapeutic approaches eventually," said the pharmacology trained scientist.
The Burgundy/Franche-Comté Higher Education and Research Hub (PRES) has all the qualities, skills and expertise to become a reference center on rafts. "The project underway targets technological advances in microdomaines, with a focus on the use of electronic chips as well as the emergence of projects on cross-disciplinary topics in a wide array fields, such as oncology, ophthalmology, or cardiovascular diseases," said Jean-Louis Junien. Conversations with industry operators are underway. "They're waiting for us to surprise them," exclaimed the scientist who knows the pharmacy and health world well and who is convinced that raftomics has huge contributions to make to nutrition. This explains the interest of the Vitagora competitive cluster, especially as these topics are completely in line with the central topic of the 2013 Taste Nutrition Health Congress(CGNS) that will be held next March in Dijon.