Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Characterization and modelling of dietary effects mediated by gut microbiota on lipid metabolism (Nutrition)

Project acronym: ETHERPATHS

Title of project: Characterization and modelling of dietary effects mediated by gut microbiota on lipid metabolism

Research area: Nutrition

Contract No: 222639

EU contribution: €5 946 626

Start date: January 2009

Duration: 54 months

Status: on-going

Dysregulation of lipid homeostasis has a role to play in multiple major global healthcare problems today, including ageing, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It has already been shown that nutritional modulation of lipid homeostasis via direct supplementation, e.g., n-3 fatty acids, or via indirect mechanisms, e.g., dietary polyphenols, has beneficial effects on human health.

There is growing evidence that ether phospholipids such as plasmalogens play a central role in mediating the beneficial effects, but the underlying mechanisms are not understood. ETHERPATHS is developing systems biology tools that will facilitate studies of dietary interventions aiming to modulate lipid homeostasis.

Specifically, the project is developing models that enable studies of gut microbiota and its effect on host cell metabolism; dynamic models of systemic lipid metabolism; and pathway reconstruction methods to study the tissue-specific effects of dietary interventions.

All models are optimised through studies of dietary interventions and integrated into a sophisticated software platform. In silico strategies are complemented by multiple experimental approaches, including dietary interventions involving n-3 fatty acids and polyphenols, combined with tracer studies in vitro and in vivo, an in vitro colon model, and in vivo germ-free and conventional models of altered lipid metabolism (specifically of plasmalogen deficiency).

ETHERPATHS involves academic and industrial partners. They have combined, unique expertise in information technology, bioinformatics, metabolic and physiological modelling, systems engineering, biochemistry, microbiology, lipid metabolism, metabolomics, obesity and metabolic syndrome, and clinical nutrition.

The tools developed by the ETHERPATHS project are expected to be broadly applied in nutrition research. The partners anticipate that the novel findings generated within the project will be used for the development of new food products for better health.

Website of project:

Coordinator: Matej Orešič,

Organisation: Teknologian Tutkimuskeskus VTT, Finland,