Justine Bertrand-Michel

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Dr. Justine Bertrand-Michel

Short Biography

About my Career

I got a PhD in chemistry of biomolecule at the University of Bordeaux and join Inserm with Research Engineer position. I worked for 10 years in a laboratory interested in Nucleic Acid particularly in antisens and aptamer strategy. I then switched to the exciting world of lipids : I created the lipidomic facility in Toulouse in 2003 which is now a part of the MetaToul facility dedicated to Metabolomics, Fluxomic and Lipidomic to whom I am Co-director. In 2013, I created with 3 colleagues the Lipidomysts French network that include people who analyzed lipids in France. This include 80 people who meet every year for two days to discuss lipidomic technics and protocoles.

About my Facility and my Work

My facility is a located in the Institut of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases, so our main projects are in the field of health. And is a part of MetaToul which brings together expertise (35 Engineer and students) and means (MS, NMR) in the field of global analysis of metabolism. I am in charge of a group of 7 full time persons dedicated to lipidomic with targeted (especially minor lipids such as oxylipine, oxysterols, new lipopeptids…) and global approaches (using SFC QTOF). My facility is a part of the French National Infrastructure (MetaboHUB) where I am in charge of the Lipidomic group and Services Work Package. I am involved in different scientific council (GERLI, Dijon, Montpellier and Chatenay Malabry Lipidomic Facilities), in Meeting organization : 2016 GERLI Meeting, 2017 European Lipidomic Meeting, 2020 Metabomeeting and in raviewing activity in J Chrom, Anal. Chem, EJON, ACA, Scientific Report, Food Chem, Metabolites, Metabolomic…

Lipidomic is a huge and complex domain it is why I think it is essential to share discussions, results and workflows together so I am involved in the French Lipidomyst Network, in International Ring Tests (such as Ceramide organized by Singapore), in Standard Lipidomic Initiative and International Lipidomic Society.

Expert Opinion

Question 1

1. When and why did you start using metabolomics in your investigations?

I am chemist and I wanted to be useful in biology, so when I change of lab 18years ago with this opportunity to create a new facility in lipidomic in Toulouse (South of France), I thought that would be a good chance to use my expertise in analytical chemistry for various project in health. The complexity and the variety of molecule studied in metabolomic (and even worse in lipidomic) immediately fascinated me.

Question 2

2. What have you been working on recently?

Like usually we offer service on a lot of different project connected to cancer, inflammation diseases, microbiote, platelet and adipose tissues…But at the moment our main developments are focused on a global lipidomic profile by supercritical fluid chromatography which will to permit the relative quantification of around 550 species in plasma, on automation of sample preparation (which is a real bottler neck in lipidomic) and on the discovering of new lipopeptides in bacteria.

Question 3

3. As the head of the MetaToul lipidomic facility, what are the most exciting aspects of studying lipids in biological systems?

What I really like in my job is to work with different researcher in a lot of different domain. Each new project is a new challenge: it is a meeting with a researcher and a new scientific problematic. I have to be able to catch quickly what will be the best approaches, the best technic and the best lipids to study to bring the most important information and to be able to answer the questions asked in a specific experiment. I like to put our expertise at the disposal of a project and to organize the team (5 to 7 Engineers) to best respond to demand.

Question 4

4. What is the biggest challenge when developing new methods for lipidomics?

I would see 4 main points : -Due to the complexity of this family of molecule, each new development or new organism to study is a new challenge for the analytical part but also for the sample preparation which shouldn’t be neglected. - There are quite few pure standards available for lipids (it is a huge family) so correct annotation is always a bit tricky and need to be conducted very carefully - Due to this lack of standard and to the mass spectrometry technology (which is not a good quantitative tool), absolute quantification of lipids is often impossible. - and finally, like for metabolomics, it is still really complicated to compare two series which have been analysed at different period which a real nightmare specially for very long series or for clinical data.

Question 5

5. You have worked with both the academic and private sector. What are the main differences working in these environments?

The difficulty to work with the private company is that very often we don’t really know what we are analysing, so for me it is less interesting than working with academic colleague where we can go deeper in the project so be more implicated in it.

Question 6

6. What are your recommendations for people getting started in lipidomics?

To be a good chemist ! We need to understand the biophysic properties of our molecule of interest to be able to extract and analyse them properly, so basic notions in organic chemistry are essential to understand and develop method in our field. Lipid can be analysed with different chromatographic system (gas, liquid,supercritical fluid, thin plate) coupled or not with mass spectrometry so the more technic you will know the best it will be !

See also