Conversations with Lipid Leaders: Dr. Maria Fedorova

Posted on February 02, 2022

Maria Ll For Website

Tell us a little bit about yourself (current role, background, family, etc.)

I studied Biochemistry at Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia and did my Master project on redox modifications of skeletal muscle proteins. With this topic I came to Germany and did my PhD at Faculty of Chemistry and Mineralogy, Leipzig University. During this time, I was trained in mass spectrometry and bioanalytical chemistry in general, and applied MS-based proteomics to look deeper in protein post-translational modifications. After a short postdoc, I started a junior research group at the Institute of Bioanalytical Chemistry in Leipzig. At this time, I became interested in redox modifications of lipids and lipidomics in general. In August 2021 my group moved to the Center for Membrane Biochemistry and Lipid Research, TU Dresden. Our focus of research includes implementation of lipidomics, epilipidomics and bioinformatics solutions to address complexity and plasticity of lipid metabolism in a variety of biological systems.

What do you consider the greatest breakthrough in lipid research in recent years?

It’s hard to choose one! The field of lipid research was booming over the last decade with a huge number of terrific publications covering different aspects of lipid biology, from organization of cellular membranes to clinical translation. The technological breakthroughs in mass spectrometry, imaging and chemical biology tool provided us with the understanding of true diversity of lipid molecular species in nature and their functional significance.

Did you always envision yourself becoming a scientist? If not, what did you want to be when you grew up? Who influenced you to become a scientist?

Yes, I guess I did. Actually, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Still find it very exciting. My mother is a technical chemist, and my aunt is a biologist. All those books on chemistry and biology at home and at my aunt’s place during the summer holidays, provided a lot of inspiration and directed my interest towards natural sciences.

What led you to begin studying lipids and lipid metabolism, specifically the epilipidome?

I am a biochemist by training and did my master in redox biology, focusing on protein modifications. That was also the focus of my PhD thesis where I started to use mass spectrometry-based proteomics to detect and identify oxidative modifications in proteins. During this time, I totally fell in love with MS as an analytical tool which allows us to look closer to the true molecular diversity of nature and “weigh” different species. One type of protein redox PTM I was studying during my PhD was protein adducts with oxidized lipids, so when I started my first independent project as a PI, I was interested to investigate oxidized lipids themselves. I understood soon enough that possible chemical diversity of oxidized lipids is tremendous and to understand the dynamics of lipid modifications, one has to look at the composition of the unmodified lipidome first, as it serves as a substrate for lipid modifications and defines the set of the oxidized species. That brought me to the “regular” lipidomics, which turned out to be very exciting as well!

How has the standardization of lipidomics in the past several years influenced your research?

Standardization of lipidomics is one of the greatest breakthroughs in the field! Using internal standards in our lipidomics workflows, now we can quantify lipids which is a key for the future clinical translation of lipidomics. But even more importantly we can express the differences between different lipidomes! That would not be possible without quantitative values. We understand that lipidome of a liver is different from lipidome of a brain. But the question is how much is it different? With numerous lipids being present in a majority of the tissue/cellular lipidomes, what makes the functional differences are the quantities in which those lipids are combined in different lipid collectives, making lipidome composition of each tissue functionally unique to serve a certain purpose.

What could you see being the next breakthrough in lipidomic analysis research?

Systems biology integration of lipidomics datasets. That will give us the ways to translate big data produced by lipidomics and epilipidomics into the answers (or at least hypothesis) to a given biological and biomedical questions. We cannot look at a particular question only from one perspective (e.g. by measuring only transcripts, proteins, or lipids) as it is not the way it happens in nature. Only interdisciplinary research supporting holistic data integration will allow us to understand what happens in a given biological system, why and how it happens, and if we can influence it.

What are your hobbies? What do you like to do outside of the lab?

I like to read, pretty much all kinds of books and to follow up on the space exploration research. With my husband we are interested in arts, so we try to visit interesting exhibitions in the cities we live and around. With a move to Dresden, we actually do a lot of hiking as the nature within the city and around is just amazing!

What class of lipidomic standards have been or would be most useful in your research?

Availability of ready-to-use mixtures of standards like SPLASH LIPIDOMIX is of great value to our research as it is easy to implement in many different workflows. But it reflects only the blood plasma lipid composition. So, when we work with different tissues, we need to test, adjust and design suitable standard mixtures for each new biological matrix. It would be great to have in the future standard mixtures tuned and verified for the lipidomes of different tissues like adipose tissue, liver, kidney, heart etc. And of course, we could only dream about availability of various standards for oxidized complex lipids. But the diversity of the species is so high, that I guess until we identify and verify a set of robust markers, that would not be possible.

We would like to thank Dr. Federova for taking time to catch up with us! To learn even more about her exciting research visit this website, HERE