Sandor LifeSciences
Biosciences Research Services

Clinical Metabolomics

The rapidly emerging field of metabolomics combines strategies to identify and quantify cellular metabolites using sophisticated analytical technologies with the application of statistical and multi-variant methods for information extraction and data interpretation.

Metabolites are considered to “act as spoken language, broadcasting signals from the genetic architecture and the environment”, and therefore, metabolomics is considered to provide a direct “functional readout of the physiological state” of an individual. Mass spectrometry coupled to different chromatographic separation techniques, such as liquid or gas chromatography are the major tools to analyze a large number of metabolites simultaneously. Due to the huge diversity of chemical structures and the large differences in abundance, there is no single technology available to analyze the entire metabolome. Therefore, a number of complementary approaches have to be established for extraction, detection, quantification, and identification of as many metabolites as possible.

Potential and applications of metabolomics:

There are four conceptual approaches in metabolomics: target analysis, metabolite profiling, metabolomics, and metabolic fingerprinting. Target analysis has been applied for many decades and includes the determination and quantification of a small set of known metabolites (targets) using one particular analytical technique of best performance for the compounds of interest. Metabolite profiling, on the other hand, aims at the analysis of a larger set of compounds, both identified and unknown with respect to their chemical nature. This approach has been applied in GC-MS, for the analysis of urine and plasma samples. Metabolomics employs complementary analytical methodologies, for example, LC-MS/MS, GC-MS, in order to determine and quantify as many metabolites as possible, either identified or unknown compounds. The fourth conceptual approach is metabolic finger-printing (or footprinting for external and/or secreted metabolites). Here a metabolic “signature” or mass profile of the sample of interest is generated and then compared in a large sample population to screen for differences between the samples. When signals that can significantly discriminate between samples are detected, the metabolites are identified and the biological relevance of that compound can be elucidated, greatly reducing the analysis time.

Metabolomics bridges the gap between genotype and phenotype, providing a more comprehensive view of how cells function, as well as identifying novel or striking changes in specific metabolites.

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