Decoding Blood Platelet Production: The Intricate Role of Lipids

Scientists unveiled a deeper understanding of megakaryocyte differentiation and blood platelet production, a process crucial for maintaining healthy blood clotting and preventing excessive bleeding. The study featured in “Nature Cardiovascular Research,” led by chemist Robert Ahrends from the University of Vienna and cardiologist Oliver Borst from the University of Tübingen, sheds light on the intricate role of lipids – the building blocks of cell membranes – in the formation of these vital blood components.

Blood platelets, tiny disk-shaped cells in our bloodstream, play a pivotal role in wound healing and preventing excessive bleeding. The process by which these platelets are produced, known as thrombopoiesis, begins with the differentiation of specialized cells called megakaryocytes. These megakaryocytes undergo a series of transformations, ultimately giving rise to thousands of blood platelets.

“It is astonishing that despite its clinical importance, neither a quantitative lipid inventory nor a map of the lipid metabolism of megakaryocytes has been available,” says Robert Ahrends.

So far, the study of megakaryocyte differentiation and platelet production has centered on enzymes related only to sphingolipid metabolism, but until now, the exact nature of the lipid species involved, as well as their metabolizing enzymes and their impact on the process, remained largely unknown. Using advanced mass spectrometry-based multiomics, the research team investigated the mechanisms of lipidome modulation of megakaryocytes as they matured and formed platelets.

Shaping anionic membranes: A lipid-driven transformation

As the megakaryocytes differentiated, they underwent substantial changes in lipid membrane composition, resulting in what the team termed an “anionic membrane phenotype.” This shift was found to be directly linked to the regulation of crucial proteins and kinases involved in platelet formation.

The study also highlighted the role of fatty acids – the building blocks of lipids – in this process. The researchers found that the uptake of fatty acids increased significantly during megakaryocyte maturation, alongside a boost in fatty acid synthesis. Manipulation of such resulted in profound thrombocytopenia, a condition characterized by abnormally low platelet levels.

Importance for cardiovascular fitness

In essence, this study offers a remarkable new perspective on megakaryocyte differentiation and platelet production, highlighting the interplay between lipids and proteins on cellular membrane transformation. “Our study provides a foundation for exploring how disruptions in lipid metabolism, seen in conditions like obesity, might affect platelet production and overall cardiovascular health,” says cardiologist Oliver Borst. Beyond scientific insights, this discovery holds promise for new avenues in addressing health challenges on the horizon.

Fig. 1. Lipid driven functional regulation and underlying mechanisms of MK maturation and thrombopoiesis.

This study focuses on the functional analysis and regulation of MK maturation and proplatelet formation, utilizing a multiomics approach and incorporating both in vitro and in vivo methodologies. To develop the multiomics method, hematopoietic stem cells were isolated from murine BM and subjected to a 7-day differentiation protocol with TPO. The SIMPLEX workflow, enabling simultaneous lipid and protein sample preparation, was employed to comprehensively determine the general molecular composition of MKs. The results revealed significant anionic lipid membrane remodeling and relocalization of the CKIP-1/CK2α complex to the plasma membrane, which appear to be essential for adequate platelet biogenesis. The graphical illustration was generated using BioRender.

Go to the publication in Nature Cardiovascular Research

Scientific contact
Prof. Dr. Robert Ahrends
Institut für Analytische Chemie
Universität Wien
1090 – Wien, Währinger Straße 38

8th Lipidomics Forum & 2nd ILS Conference August 27th – 30th 2023

The 8th Lipidomics Forum and 2nd International Lipidomics Society (ILS) Conference convened from August 27th to 30th, 2023. It provided a dynamic platform for researchers, scientists, and industry experts to delve into the latest advancements in lipidomics.

The Local Organizing Committee, headed by Robert Ahrends and his working group at the University of Vienna, successfully planned and organized the event. The conference schedule was thoughtfully created to cover the diverse interests and expertise of the attendees. The four-day event commenced with a series of workshops and an opening by Vice-Rector Manuela Baccarini.

Keynote speakers from academia and industry delivered exciting talks on emerging trends and challenges in lipidomics, laying the foundation for the ensuing discussions. The LIFS and LipiTUM workshops unfolded over the subsequent days, covering a spectrum of topics ranging from lipid profiling technologies and methodologies to the functional roles of lipids in health and disease. Participants discussed mass spectrometry techniques, chromatographic approaches, and bioinformatics tools employed in lipidomics research.

The Forum and the Conference also provided a unique platform for early-career scientists and graduate students to present their research through dedicated sessions and poster presentations. This initiative put together the next generation of lipidomics researchers and promoted a collaborative spirit within the scientific community.

In addition to the scientific program, the conference facilitated networking opportunities, allowing participants to establish connections with peers, mentors, and industry representatives.

The conference concluded on August 30th, 2023, and left a lasting impact on the lipidomics community. The organizers thank all attendees and are grateful for the industry sponsorship, making this meeting a vibrant event. We are looking forward to welcoming you again from the 14th to the 17th of September in 2025.

Pics by Martin Schaier.

Latest methods in lipidomics; Extraction: Quo vadis?

I was thrilled to have Gerhard Liebisch from Regensburg and Denise Wolrab with us on sample extraction. Both exciting talks gave our students great detail about what can go wrong in sample extraction during lipidomics experiments.

Gerhard Liebisch, Institute of Clinical Chemistry, Regensburg, Germany

PD Dr. Gerhard Liebisch obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Regensburg. His research interests focus on the development of MS methods for the quantification of lipid species. For more than 20 years, these methods have been applied in large-scale clinical studies and basic research.


Denise Wolrab, University of Pardubice, Czech Republic

Dr. Denise Wolrab is an analytical chemist focusing on separation science and the application for the analysis of biomolecules, mainly using supercritical fluid chromatography hyphenated to mass spectrometry. After her Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in 2017, she obtained a postdoc position at the University of Pardubice responsible for the method development and application of lipidomics for cancer screening, mainly using UHPSFC/MS. Since 2020, Denise Wolrab has been PI and Grant Project manager at the University of Pardubice, evaluating the applicability of UHPSFC/MS for the metabolomic analysis of clinical samples.


The next version of GOSLIN is there! Goslin is the first grammar-based computational library for the recognition/parsing and normalization of lipid names following the hierarchical lipid shorthand nomenclature. The new version Goslin 2.0 implements the latest nomenclature and adds an additional grammar to recognize systematic IUPAC-IUB fatty acyl names as stored, e.g., in the LIPID MAPS database and is perfectly suited to update lipid names in LIPID MAPS or HMDB databases to the latest nomenclature. Goslin 2.0 is available as a standalone web application with a REST API as well as C++, C#, Java, Python 3, and R libraries. Importantly, it can be easily included in lipidomics tools and scripts providing direct access to translation functions. All implementations are open source.

HFSP Award goes to our lab!

With great pleasure, I announce that we were awarded through the Human Frontier Science Program. We are eager to start the chapter of synaptoneurolipidomics, and we are thrilled to start this great project with labs around the globe:

We Love Lipids

We are delighted to contribute to the “We Love Lipids” Tutorial in 2022, introducing lipidomics and lipid sciences. Please save the dates and meet us again soon!

100 min with ILS

It is with great pleasure to announce the 2022 100 min with ILS podcast again. Stay tuned!

Signaling Lipidomics

Prof. Schebb

Prof. Dr. Nils Helge Schebb (Food Chemist and European Registered Toxicologist) is full professor for food chemistry at the University of Wuppertal, Germany. His group is developing instrumental analytical methods to investigate the biological activity of food ingredients.

The major focus of his research group in the last decade is set on targeted lipidomics of oxylipins. His lab developed one the most comprehensive internationally validated platforms for the analysis of oxylipins. Using this approach, the effect how n3-PUFA as well as polyphenols elicit their beneficial effects on human health, are analyzed. Dr. Schebb has published >100 peer reviewed publications of those > 50 about the analysis, formation and biology of oxylipins. Prof. Schebb gave a fantastic talk at the lipidomics seminar (24th of June 2021) on:

“Investigating the formation of eicosanoids and other oxylipins by means of LC-MS/MS (QqQ)”

We very much would like to thanks Prof. Schebb for his great and inspiring talk!

Prof. Thorsten Hornemann
Prof. Hornemann

It is for us a great pleasure to have Prof. Thorsten Hornemann as a guest speaker in our Department at the 24th of June 2021 on the topic of sphingolipid signaling. Th. Hornemann is professor for clinical chemistry and head of the lipidomics research facility at the Institute for Clinical Chemistry, University Zurich. His primary interest is the sphingolipid metabolism where he pioneered by identifying several new lipid metabolic pathways. He and his team developed several unique analytical methods and metabolic labelling techniques to investigate the structure, function and metabolism of sphingolipids with a particular focus on rare and atypical sphingolipid metabolites. He also established several lipid metabolites and lipid based metabolic signatures as diagnostic and prospective biomarkers for cardio-metabolic diseases including NAFLD, CVD, MetS and T2DM.

Thorsten many thanks for joining us it is always fantastic to listens to such great science!