Guest Column | March 20, 2014

Simplifying Disease Complexity By Bringing Metabolomics Into Practice - Part 6

metabolites are diagnostic data stream

Dr. Kirk Beebe, Director of Application Science, Metabolon, Inc.

In the previous editions of this 6-part series, we’ve explored numerous example of how metabolomics is bringing success to areas such as cancer, metabolic disease, cardiovascular, and rare disease research.  Although we did not devote attention to every area of biology or therapeutic area, the intent of this broad series was not only to convey how metabolomics can be used in a specific area of research (e.g. cancer), but actually,  how metabolomics is a central science for interrogating any biological question. So, although it may seem like an oversimplification, to understand whether metabolomics could be used in a research setting one need only ask themselves, “Do I have a biological question that would benefit from a hypothesis-free approach?,  am I interested in exploring my system for potential new discoveries? Or do I need a biomarker/better biomarker? 

As described in our first part, metabolites have been and continue to be a staple for clinical and in vivo decision making (e.g. cholesterol, glucose, bilirubin, creatinine, thyroid hormone, newborn screening for inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs)).  In short, this utility is fundamental to the foundations of biology since metabolism is central to all kingdoms of life and contemporary biology is driven to maintain metabolic homeostasis to maintain the phenotype. An unappreciated point that we leave this series with is that this fundamental nature (the connection of metabolism to the phenotype) confers an important advantage of metabolism for deriving biomarkers and understanding the underlying physiology (Fig. 1).