Lipid metabolism has been suggested to be a major pathophysiological mechanism of multiple sclerosis (MS). With the increasing knowledge about lipid signaling, acquired data become increasingly complex making bioinformatics necessary in lipid research. We used unsupervised machine-learning to analyze lipid marker serum concentrations, pursuing the hypothesis that for the most relevant markers the emerging data structures will coincide with the diagnosis of MS. Machine learning was implemented as emergent self-organizing feature maps (ESOM) combined with the U*-matrix visualization technique. The data space consisted of serum concentrations of three main classes of lipid markers comprising eicosanoids (d = 11 markers), ceramides (d = 10), and lyosophosphatidic acids (d = 6). They were analyzed in cohorts of MS patients (n = 102) and healthy subjects (n = 301). Clear data structures in the high-dimensional data space were observed in eicosanoid and ceramides serum concentrations whereas no clear structure could be found in lysophosphatidic acid concentrations. With ceramide concentrations, the structures that had emerged from unsupervised machine-learning almost completely overlapped with the known grouping of MS patients versus healthy subjects. This was only partly provided by eicosanoid serum concentrations. Thus, unsupervised machine-learning identified distinct data structures of bioactive lipid serum concentrations. These structures could be superimposed with the known grouping of MS patients versus healthy subjects, which was almost completely possible with ceramides. Therefore, based on the present analysis, ceramides are first-line candidates for further exploration as drug-gable targets or biomarkers in MS.
Keywords: bioinformatics; ceramides; data science; machine-learning; multiple sclerosis; prostanoids.