Daniel Raftery, PhD, Director of the Metabolomics Core Facility.
The rapidly growing field of metabolomics focuses on the quantitative analysis of many hundreds of metabolites in complex specimens that include bio-fluids, tissues and cells. Small molecule metabolites (<1000 Da) represent the end products of gene, transcripts and proteins function, and provide an instantaneous and sensitive snapshot of biological status, including health and disease. Recent advances in high-throughput metabolomics approaches provide understanding of altered metabolic pathways and the ability to discover new gene functions or dis-regulation of important enzymes. Broadly, most metabolomics investigations are focused on understanding the molecular basis of disease pathogenesis by identifying altered metabolic pathways, or on identifying metabolite biomarkers for disease detection or therapy monitoring/prediction. Metabolic profiles or fingerprints, which are unique to every individual, offer novel avenues to better understand systems biology, detect heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases, and identify potential risks for many conditions.
Current metabolomics studies have taken advantage of advanced instrumentation, an array of new analytical and statistical methods, and well-established publicly available metabolic pathways and large metabolite databases. The growing field of metabolomics produced over 2200 papers during 2015 alone. New developments in the field of metabolomics include:
- New biomarker candidates for cardiovascular disease, several cancers and Alzheimer’s disease.
- An improved understanding of the alterations of cellular metabolism in cancer
- New discoveries in immune cell metabolism that relate to their activity and effectiveness
- Novel drug targets based on the discovery of new disease related metabolic changes
Metabolomics research in the Mitochondrial Metabolism Center and the Northwest Metabolomics Research Center (NW-MRC) is focused on these areas in relation to a number of diseases with an emphasis on those that affect mitochondrial function, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and others. Advanced methods development in metabolomics is also the focus of several activities in the NW-MRC. For more information on activities related to metabolomics see the NW-MRC website (http://depts.washington.edu/nwmrc), or Dr. Raftery’s homepage (http://depts.washington.edu/mmcslu/laboratories/raftery-lab/).