You can read an accessible metabolomics summary here for members of the public.

What is metabolomics?

Metabolomics is an emerging and powerful scientific discipline that studies the diversity of low molecular weight organic chemicals (metabolites) present in cells, tissues and organisms.  Thousands of endogenous metabolites have been catalogued in the human body [1], including amino acids, organic acids, carbohydrates and lipids. However, it is expected that many more thousands of additional uncharacterised metabolites are also present, some of which are derived from sources related to lifestyle (e.g. exercise), environment (e.g. diet, drug prescription) and microbe-human interactions (e.g. gut microflora). The study of human metabolomes, the qualitative and quantitative metabolic composition of specific sample types, provides a sensitive and dynamic measure of biochemical interactions and functions following genetic, biological or environmental perturbations.  In the study of disease systems, there are two general objectives; (i) the discovery and application of biomarkers or (ii) the discovery of novel molecular mechanisms important for disease pathology and their application to develop new treatments. Both objectives can be used for the study of genetics, disease, drug toxicity/efficacy, ageing or lifestyle, where metabolomics offers a number of advantages over other technologies [2].

[1] Wishart DS, Knox C, et al. ‘HMDB: a knowledgebase for the human metabolome.’ Nucleic Acids Research 2009 37(Database issue):D603-10. [ 18953024]

[2] Dunn WB, Broadhurst DI, Atherton HJ, Goodacre R, Griffin JL. ‘Systems level studies of mammalian metabolomes: the roles of mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.’ Chemical Society Reviews 2011 40:387-426. [ 20717559]


Studying the metabolome