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Advanced bioanalytical technologies for systems biology studies

Final Report Summary - ADVANCED BIOANALYSIS (Advanced bioanalytical technologies for systems biology studies)

Project main results

This project has succeeded in the following:

1. Establishment of an active metabolomics research group at the Aristotle University
The group has at present four doctoral studies ongoing, four Masters students and a number of undergraduate students. Through their excellent work, the group gained three grants from the Greek Secretariat of Research and Technology to perform metabolomics research.

Two important developments show recognition of this initiative from the hierarchy of the Aristotle University (host):

a. Dr Gika was selected and employed (February 2011) as a lecturer at the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Aristotle University.
b. The university is investing more than EUR 1.5 million to acquire modern analytical instrumentation suitable for this type of work, which includes two high-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers and an Orbitrap mass spectrometer. These will be installed at the departments of Dr Gika and of G. Theodoridis. Investment in this technology will facilitate interdisciplinary research within the university (the largest in Greece and amongst the largest in South East Europe) so as to unlock the research potential to enable participation in large-scale projects.
Dr Gika has also applied for a start-up fund (Aristotle University) in collaboration with the Veterinary School. The European Reintegration Grant coordinator is fully supporting her first steps in her academic career.

2. The research work of the past three to four years promoted the metabolomics field at a local level, introducing this new interdisciplinary field to the local scientific society. The group has created links with clinical and biochemistry researchers in Greece, and we are in the process of finalising the first publications with the Fleming Institute. Through cooperation with the group of Exercise Biochemistry Thessaloniki (V. Mougios) and the nuclear magnetic resonance group of Prof. Mikros (Athens), one work was published (publication No. 7) and a second is in preparation. With B. Tarlatzis' group, embryo metabolomics is now studied. With the toxicology group (N. Raikos, Medical School Thessaloniki) close co-operation has resulted in the installation of gas chromatographs - mass spectrometers (GC-MS) and the development of bio-analytical methodologies (publications No. 3 and 4).

3. We have also worked on addressing fundamental issues in metabolomics, such as instrument instability, limitations of software for data and statistical treatment, and problems in marker identification. On these topics we published two extensive review articles, a book chapter and a protocol with guidelines for successful design, experimental planning and implementation of metabolomics research (publications No. 1, 2, 9 and 10). We published on data fusion from different instruments, describing the limitations faced by the metabolomics research community (publication No. 5) and proposing strategies to address these issues. Sample preparation comes into focus and we recently described important issues to be considered in sample preparation of blood prior to metabolomics (publication No. 8).

4) We cooperated in international initiatives organised by TNO, Zeist, the Netherlands, aiming towards liquid chromatographs - mass spectrometers (LC-MS) data harmonisation. We also continued our work with AstraZeneca UK (Prof. Ian Wilson) to establish an LC-MS database.

5) The major goal of the project was the continuation of the flow of information and the transfer of knowledge to the Aristotle University. Realisation of the ERG project kept the relevant activity alive in Thessaloniki during a transfer phase, which led to the establishment of the metabolomics group in Thessaloniki. The group is now recognised as an entity and has shown good potential. We believe that we will be able to attract new collaborators and foster further synergies, both at a local and an international level.

At a local level, the project succeeded in heralding the new research topic of metabolomics. A number of students now know much more about the metabolomics fields and pursue such studies in Greece and abroad.

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