Building The Metabolic Toolbox:
Enabling Rapid Disease Diagnosis Through Metabolic Profiling
Metabolomics (pronounced "Metabo-lomics"), or metabolic profiling, is an emerging branch of genetic research. It uses small molecules called metabolites (pronounced "metabo-lites") to detect changes in cell behavior and organ function. It also uses these chemicals to monitor and measure the larger-scale physiological changes that occur in response to subtle changes in the environment, thus helping to improve our monitoring of adverse drug reactions and better understand individual sensitivities to prescription drugs. Physicians and scientists around the world are now beginning to realize that metabolic profiling will have a significant impact on the diagnosis, prediction, prevention and monitoring of many genetic, infectious and environmental diseases.
"Our goals are twofold," explains Dr. David Wishart of the University of Alberta, "We want to create comprehensive metabolite databases and infrastructure and assist in the creation of new medical tools that enable us to quickly and inexpensively profile metabolites for disease diagnosis and management."
The Human Metabolome Project (HMP) will use mass spectrometry, chromatography, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to achieve its goal of becoming the first group in the world to "complete" the human metabolome (pronounced "metabo-lome"). "The term metabolome, like genome or proteome, refers to the complete complement of metabolites found in or produced by an organism," explains Dr. Wishart. "Through our work on this project, we will make an important contribution to establishing revolutionary advances in medical diagnostic testing. These tools will allow literally hundreds of normally expensive and time-consuming medical tests to be performed in just a few minutes. We expect these new tools to shorten diagnosis time by a factor of 100, and reduce testing costs by a factor of 1000 or more."
This project brings together researchers from several Canadian universities, hospitals, research institutes and industry to assist in the development of instruments, technologies and methodologies that will have a significant, positive impact on Canadian health care and health management within the next five years. Through these partnerships, the project team intends to make Canada an international leader in the development and deployment of databases, metabolic profiling instruments, and software.