Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meabolomics.. coming of age?

According to Oliver et al. 1998 and Tweeddale et al. 1998, metabolomics is the
study of all of an organism’s low-molecular-weight molecules or metabolites. It is also defined (although sometimes under a slightly different name of metabonomics)as ‘the quantitative measurement of the dynamic multiparametric metabolic response of living systems to pathophysiological stimuli or genetic modification’(Nicholson et al. 1999, 2002).

After more than a decade (Oliver et al., 1998), metabolomics has begun to acquire some credence in the scientific community and is finally coming of age, although its acceptance cannot be compared with that of its forerunners,

Metabolic network showing the links between en...Image via Wikipedia

genomics and proteomics.

The legitimization of metabolomics as a valid scientific entity depends on the size of the research community it influences (Arita, 2009). By far the most effective medium for inoculation is the web infrastructure: public servers that accommodate experimental data, simple formats and guidelines for their interpretation, and connectivity between data and tools for analysis. When these elements satisfy the condition to initiate a social epidemic, metabolomics will be accepted as a fundamental data-driven science that can unite hitherto independently conducted research disciplines.

At present, both technologies are applied not only to traditional biology but also to metagenomics and environmental sciences, such as the monitoring of microbial dynamics in different environments [Fan at el., 2009; Wikoff et al. 2009].

Still, enthusiasm for metabolomics continues to be lukewarm. Although the name ‘metabolomics’ suggests comprehensive detection, the number of identifiable metabolites is currently limited even if multiple measurement technologies are combined [Fernie, 2007]

The trade-off between coverage(physicochemical variations of metabolites that can be detected by the same method) and/or sensitivity (the lowest detectable metabolite concentration), and precision (accuracy of detected masses or signals) is a severe hurdle this emerging technology has yet to overcome, and the identifiable number of metabolites has not increased

In their seminal paper, Fiehn et al. used gas chromatography/ mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and reported the peak assignment of 164 metabolites (101 polar and 63 lipophilic)
in Arabidopsis thaliana [Fiehn et al, 2007]. After nearly a decade, using the same analytical platform, the number of metabolites identifiable at top research institutes was even
lower; this may be attributable to higher measurement accuracy [14,15]. In 2003, Soga et al. reported the detection of 1692 ionic metabolite peaks from Bacillus subtilis by capillary electrophoresis/mass spectrometry (CE/MS) [16].

Another important factor is the intelligibility of data. In biology, the readability of raw data affects popularity. In fact, metabolism, the primary research topic in metabolomics, is notorious for its incomprehensibility and many researchers stayed away from metabolic networks containing lengthy structural and stoichiometric information. The KEGG database gained popularity for its oversimplified representation of metabolic networks: each metabolite is represented as a node without structure, and each reaction as a binary relationship without stoichiometry [34].

In metabolomics we confront many ambiguous data such as metabolite IDs and mass spectral tags (MSTs), that is, repeatedly detected but unidentified mass signals that account for more than half of the detected spectral peaks [50].

Metabolon has recently got 6 millions in serises C financing
Metabolon offers global biochemical profiling (metabolomic) services to researchers working in drug safety and toxicology, bioprocess optimization, consumer products and other areas which benefit from insight into complex biochemical processes and how they change in response to experimental variables.

The company’s technology has been used to identify biochemical biomarkers useful for the development of a wide range of diagnostics. These markers are being applied to the development of its own proprietary diagnostic tools for prostate cancer and insulin resistance.
Series C Round Now Closed with a Total of $12.3 Million in Additional Capital

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