Lipids are water-insoluble molecules that have a wide variety of functions within cells, including: 1) maintenance of electrochemical gradients; 2) subcellular partitioning; 3) first- and second-messenger cell signaling; 4) energy storage; and 5) protein trafficking and membrane anchoring. The physiological importance of lipids is illustrated by the numerous diseases to which lipid abnormalities contribute, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease. Lipidomics, a branch of metabolomics, is a systems-based study of all lipids, the molecules with which they interact, and their function within the cell. Recent advances in soft-ionization mass spectrometry, combined with established separation techniques, have allowed the rapid and sensitive detection of a variety of lipid species with minimal sample preparation. A "lipid profile" from a crude lipid extract is a mass spectrum of the composition and abundance of the lipids it contains, which can be used to monitor changes over time and in response to particular stimuli. Lipidomics, integrated with genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, will contribute toward understanding how lipids function in a biological system and will provide a powerful tool for elucidating the mechanism of lipid-based disease, for biomarker screening, and for monitoring pharmacologic therapy.