Metabolomics Program Highlights
Using metabolomics to study cancer cell metabolism
Cancer cells have distinctive changes in their metabolism that can be exploited for cancer diagnosis and treatment. One metabolic change that occurs is in the way a cancer cell uses the biological molecule glutamine. This chemical is both broken down for energy and used as a starting point in the synthesis of other biological compounds such as nucleotides and amino acids. Drugs that inhibit glutamine processing by targeting the enzyme glutaminase, which converts glutamine into glutamate, may be promising for cancer therapy. However, these therapies would be most useful if we could easily identify the patients who are mostly likely to benefit from them. Towards this end, a recent study from the West Coast Metabolomics Center examined the glutamate to glutamine ratio (GGR) in breast tissue from 270 breast cancer patients compared to 97 normal controls. They found that this ratio was significantly higher in cancer tissue. Tumor characteristics such as estrogen receptor (ER) status and tumor grade correlated with GGR, such that ER negative breast tumors and higher grade tumors had more elevated GGR levels. The finding that GGR levels are elevated in many breast tumors suggest that this measurement might predict which tumors would be candidates for treatment with newly developed glutaminase inhibitors.
The unique metabolism of bacteria that colonize chronic wounds
Infection with bacterial communities contributes to the conversion of an acute wound to a chronic state. Using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometry, Dr. Ammons and her colleagues looked at the metabolite composition of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria from two classes: Drug-resistant highly virulent bacteria obtained from clinical isolates and non-virulent drug-sensitive lab strains. For each strain, they analyzed samples grown in standard liquid cultures and others grown under biofilm conditions that mimic the chronic wound environment. They found that both bacterial strains exhibited distinct metabolite profiles when grown in the wound-like environment. These results suggest the possibility of developing molecular markers that could be used to classify the bacteria found within a wound and determine conversion to a chronic wound state. The nature of the metabolites also provide clues to the biological changes that occur when bacteria are grown in chronic wound conditions, offering the potential to develop therapeutic agents that exploit their distinct metabolism. View the article abstract here.
Studying the ebb and flow of biological molecules in the metabolism with metabolomics
Dr. Gary Patti and his team at the Washington University School of Medicine have built on recent advances in the fields of metabolomics and bioinformatics to develop a new approach to studying the ebb and flow of biological molecules as they are processed during metabolism. Their approach combines two techniques called “untargeted metabolomics analysis” and “isotopic labeling” that allow them to track the fate of a biological molecule in an unbiased manner. This publication describes their unique experimental process and introduces a new software program they’ve developed to make data analysis easier. They describe a test case which experimentally validates their system and demonstrates that it can be useful in identifying new biochemical pathways. Their system also allows us follow the fate of individual biological molecules in response to environmental changes. Read the article abstract here.
MetabolomeXchange: the beginnings of international metabolomics data sharing
The NIH Common Fund Metabolomics program contributes to international efforts to make metabolomics datasets accessible to researchers world-wide through the metabolomeXchange. Data from the program's Metabolomics Workbench is searchable through the metabolomeXchange website which also has links to the deposited data.
Using metabolomics to understand the interplay of antibiotics and a pathogenic bacterium that can live in the gut
Metabolomics Program Mentored Research Scientist Dr. Casey Theriot, using the Michigan Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Center (MRC2 ), published in Nature Communications that metabolites produced by gut microbes change in response to antibiotic treatment and favor growth of the pathogenic bacterium C. difficile.
Researchers look at the relationship between metabolic health and the metabolites found in blood
New work from the NIH West Coast Metabolomics Center at UC Davis describes how the metabolites found in the blood of women who are obese, sedentary and insulin-resistant change after the women participate in a weight loss and exercise intervention. Some of the metabolites that changed were derived from the gut, and may have originated either from diet or from gut-dwelling microbes. By revealing an association between improved metabolic health and an altered metabolite profile, this study and others like it could help us understand, diagnose and treat complex metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes mellitus. Click here to access the research article.
Researchers Investigate Lung Disorders Using Metabolomics
A publication from the University of Michigan Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Research Core (RCMRC) offers insight into the lungs of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome. View the article abstract here.
Call for Pilot and Feasibililty Project Applications from Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Cores
Pilot and Feasibility Projects
The six Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Research Cores (RCMRCs) are accepting applications for exploratory biomedical research projects utilizing metabolomics technology. These Pilot and Feasibility studies (P&F) are intended to provide opportunities for investigators to advance basic, clinical and translational biomedical science by incorporating metabolomic technologies into their research.
These awards are intended to support projects that will provide preliminary data for new extramural proposal submission. The application deadline is March 15, 2014.
All basic, translational, or clinical investigators who are eligible to apply as a PI for NIH grants are invited to apply. Early stage investigators or those new to the metabolomics field are especially encouraged to apply.
Application Procedures for the RCMRCs
Application information for P&F studies at the Michigan Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Research Core
Application information for P&F studies at the NIH West Coast Metabolomics Center at UC Davis
Application information for P&F studies at the NIH Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core at RTI International
Application information for P&F studies at the Southeast Center for Integrated Metabolomics
Application information for P&F studies at the Metabolomics Core at Mayo Clinic
Application information for P&F studies at the Resource Center for Stable Isotope-Resolved Metabolomics
Learn More about the RCMRCs
Michigan Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Research Core (MRC2)
NIH West Coast Metabolomics Center at UC Davis
NIH Eastern Regional Comprehensive Metabolomics Resource Core at RTI International (RTI RCMRC)
Southeast Center for Integrated Metabolomics (SECIM)
Metabolomics Core at Mayo Clinic
Resource Center for Stable Isotope-Resolved Metabolomics (RC-SIRM)
Scientific Symposium on Metabolomics
Scientific Symposium: Metabolomics, the Underlying Basis of Disease was hosted at the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine. Both Dr. Stephen Barnes and Dr. Andrew Patterson grantees of the Metabolomics program presented at the symposium. An overview, agenda with copies of the presentations given at the Symposium can be found here.
Learn More About Metabolomics Initiatives
- The NIH Common Fund is taking a comprehensive approach to increasing the research capacity in metabolomics by funding a variety of initiatives in this area, including training, technology development, standards synthesis, and data sharing capability for this new field.
View the Metabolomics Press Release.
- The International Conference of the Metabolomics Society met in Washington, DC on June 2012. For conference information visitwww.metabolomics2012.org
- The National Institutes of Health Common Fund Working Group on Metabolomics organized a workshop on Metabolomics and Translational Research, in the spring of 2011. The goal of the workshop was to help NIH identify and prioritize opportunities to further the use of metabolomics in translational research across the interests of the entire NIH.
View the 2011 Meeting Report
Learn more about the Metabolomics Community