PM.20.024 – Sphingolipids in life and disease: in science, clinic and society

Route: Personalised medicine: the individual at the centre

Cluster question: 083 How do neurological, psychiatric, and mental disorders arise, and how can we prevent, mitigate, or cure them?

Lipids are essential for life and abnormalities in their production and/or breakdown may reflect ongoing diseases such as in the brain or in the cardiovascular system. Many of these diseases differ in severity or in the course of the disease, between men and women. Recently obtained evidence indicates an important role for so called ”sphingolipids” in the development of these diseases and our latest experiments show notable sex-specific differences in sphingolipid homeostasis in brain and in blood. In the current project, we investigate how the sphingolipid machinery fails during neuroinflammatory, neurodegenerative and cardio-metabolic diseases in a sex-specific manner. At present, the treatment for such diseases is a simple ‘one-fits-all’ approach. We aim at obtaining insight into the mechanisms by which sphingolipids contribute to disease in men and in women. This will lead to sex-specific biomarkers, targets for treatment and intervention strategies. Importantly, since many people are unaware that lipids, such as sphingolipids, are vital to our existence, we will establish a training platform to educate people on the importance of sphingolipids and what role they may play in daily life and how we can influence their levels using non-pharmacological and pharmacological interventions. This will increase cost effectiveness of drug therapy and thereby reduce health care and societal costs.


biomarkers, interventions, sex differences, Sphingolipids, translational research

Other organisations

Amsterdam UMC, Erasmus Medical Center (EMC), UMC


Organisation Maastricht University (UM)
Name Prof. Pilar Martinez