Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

[pib] How lipids play critical roles in infectious diseases

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lipids, Non-polar compounds

Mains level : Not Much


A researcher from IIT Bombay is using biologically active lipid molecules as chemical biology tools to elucidate their biological disease-causing function.

About the research

  • The research is focused to explore how lipids play critical roles in infectious diseases by intervening in cellular signaling, membrane trafficking, and protein function all of which are intimately involved in host-pathogen interplay.
  • The research works with lipids from Mycobacteria tuberculosis (Mtb), which synthesizes atypical lipids predisposed on its surface to interact with the human host membrane.
  • Using Mtb lipids as tools, the research elucidates a direct correlation between human host lipid membrane modification and modulation of associated signaling pathways by these exogenous Mtb lipids.

What are Lipids?

  • A lipid is a biomolecule that is soluble in nonpolar solvents.
  • Non-polar solvents are typically hydrocarbons used to dissolve other naturally occurring hydrocarbon lipid molecules that do not (or do not easily) dissolve in water, including fatty acids, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E, and K), monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, and phospholipids.
  • The functions of lipids include storing energy, signaling, and acting as structural components of cell membranes.
  • Lipids have applications in the cosmetic and food industries as well as in nanotechnology.

Role of Lipids

  • Lipids are important components of living cells and are responsible for maintaining the integrity of our cell membrane, which allows nutrients and drugs to pass through the cell.
  • These are commonly breached during infection and in diseases.
  • Lipids play a major role in altering cell membrane properties modulating lipid and protein diffusion and membrane organization.
  • Thus, changes in membrane properties control the proper functioning of cells and are harnessed by pathogens for their survival and infection.
  • Lipids critically dictate the molecular interactions of drugs with membranes influencing drug diffusion, partitioning, and accumulation, thereby underpinning lipid-composition specificity.

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