The Karolinska Institute International Open Lab was established at the end of 2015 under the direction of Assoc Prof Craig Wheelock. The first recruitment was made in March 2016 with the appointment of Dr. Romanas Chaleckis as an Assistant Prof, followed by the recruitment of Dr. Isabel Meister as a post-doctoral researcher in April 2017. During the first year, the primary focus of the laboratory was to set-up the necessary instrumentation and methods to form a molecular phenotyping laboratory.
The primary research theme of the laboratory is to perform molecular phenotyping of individuals in order to identify a molecular signature of Health. We aim to do this using high-resolution mass spectrometry-based metabolomics. These methods make extensive use of the GIAR mass spectrometry facility, which provides cutting edge instrumentation for both both targeted and non-targeted metabolomics (see graphic). After an initial setup and training period, the primary metabolomics methods were successfully transferred from the main laboratory at the Karolinska Institute to GIAR. All methods have now been benchmarked in both laboratories to ensure equal and homogeneous data quality.
To address our research questions, we collaborate with numerous well-known institutions, which provide us with high quality samples from human cohort studies. To follow up on the findings from the human cohorts, model systems and organisms are essential for dissecting the molecular mechanisms of metabolism. Therefore we also collaborate with laboratories working with cell cultures and model organisms.
The laboratory is growing and we are hiring 2 additional post-doctoral researchers to join the group at GIAR. This expansion has been funded by obtaining external financing for the laboratory. A research grant was obtained from The Environment Research and Technology Development Fund (ERTDF) (Grant No 5-1752) for the exposome work. In addition, Dr. Meister obtained a JSPS post-doctoral fellowship (start November 2017) for her GIAR project. In addition, we have 2 Gunma University medical students who have joined the laboratory to learn about molecular phenotyping and assist in spectra annotation.
For our research in molecular phenotyping, we have initiated a collaboration with Agilent Technologies to develop extremely high-throughput methods for metabolomics analyses. We have recently acquired a cutting edge instrument called a “RapidFire” (see graphic) to enable us to implement these high-throughput metabolomics at GIAR, which would place GIAR and Gunma University at the forefront of metabolomics research both in Japan as well as internationally. Gunma University is the first university in Japan to posses this instrument, and there are only 120 instruments available worldwide.
We have established collaborations within Gunma University:
1)Dr. Kazuto Ohashi and Dr. Satoshi Yoshida at the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Regulation, which have resulted in a manuscript in press in the journal Scientific Reports.
2)Dr. Takeshi Hisada in the Department of Respiratory Medicine, with a focus on phenotyping severe asthma.
We are also working with other groups in Japan:
1)Dr. Masanori Arita at Riken to develop new methods for metabolomics data analysis
2)Dr. Bun-ichi Shimizu at Toyo University to analyze signaling lipids
3)Dr. Shoji Nakayama, head of the Center for Health and Environmental Risk Research at the National Institute for Environmental Studies. Our joint grant with Dr. Nakayama will develop methods to perform exposome analyses in the Japanese Environmental Children’s Study (JECS).
Several international collaborations have been established:
1)Dr. Ian Adcock and Dr. Fan Chung at Imperial College London for molecular phenotyping of asthma exacerbations. In addition, collaborations have been initiated with
2)Dr. Jessica Lasky-Su and Dr. Scott Weiss at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Harvard Medical School to perform large-scale molecular phenotyping of asthmatics.