What is Metabolomics?

The simultaneous measurement of thousands of chemicals in blood or urine that more completely describe our metabolism.

It is hard to tell what you are looking at with just a few measures…

The simultaneous measurement of thousands of chemicals in blood or urine that more completely describe our metabolism.

It is hard to tell what you are looking at with just a few measures…

Thousands of measures are much better than just a few…

For example, metabolomics measures can help us tell from a blood sample who has coronary artery disease and how bad it is…

Here chemicals were measured in one blood sample and then a score based on the amounts found was graphed. People with no heart disease had a very different pattern of these chemicals than did those with heart disease.

nutrigenomicsFrom: Brindle,JT et al., Nat. Med. 8,1439-45, 2002

Data Key:

Yellow – disease free
Red – 1 coronary vessel involved
Blue – 2 coronary vessels involved
Orange – 3 coronary vessels involved

The NRI has a core facility that will perform two different types of metabolomic analysis: metabolic fingerprinting and metabolic profiling.

With metabolic fingerprinting, we find thousands of small molecules in blood or urine using one of several sophisticated instruments, and without knowing the identity of these molecules, use computer software to determine if high (or low) concentrations of these molecules are correlated with a diet, treatment or disease process. Metabolic fingerprinting can be used as a diagnostic aid. An example of a metabolic fingerprinting study is the graph on an earlier web page where chemicals were measured in one blood sample and then a score based on the amounts found was graphed. People with no heart disease had a very different pattern of these chemicals than did those with heart disease.

Metabolic profiling is more difficult than metabolic fingerprinting, as it requires that we identify the exact chemical structure of the molecules that change in association with a diet, treatment or disease process. By identifying the exact molecules involved we can analyze the impact of a diet, treatment or disease process on metabolic pathways.

We can then begin to develop concepts of the mechanisms involved in the observed changes. At this time, we know the identity of 300-500 molecules in blood (of more than 2000), and there is a great deal of work to be done to identify and to be able to accurately measure the entire metabolome. Some of these molecules do not come from human metabolism, but from the metabolism of bacteria in our intestines. In our bodies there are more bacterial cells than there are human cells. Metabolomics is a new tool for studying what it is that these bacteria do with the food that we eat.

Our metabolomic core facility has the following cutting-edge instrumentation:

  • 4 Agilent 4957 InertXL GC/MS systems?
  • 4 Waters Acquity UPLC/Quattro Premier LC-MS/MS systems
  • 2 Waters Acquity UPLC/Q-Tof Premier LC-MS/MS systems
  • Bruker NMRs – 1 950 MHz, 1 700 MHz, 2 600 MHz, and 1 400 MHz. The 700 MHz will be solely dedicated to metabolomic analyses.

Outstanding analytical chemists, biologist, and experts in bioinformatics will operate the equipment and assist with data analysis.