The NIH Common Fund’s Metabolomics program aims to increase national capacity in metabolomics by supporting the development of next generation technologies to enhance the sensitivity and speed with which specific elements of the cellular metabolome can be identified and quantified, providing training and mentoring opportunities, increasing the inventory of chemically identifiable metabolites through the synthesis and availability of high quality reference standards, and by promoting data sharing and collaboration.
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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.
Read the article abstract here.
Research from Metabolomics Program Mentored Research Scientist Dr. Mary Cloud Ammons provides insight into the unique metabolism of bacteria that colonize chronic wounds.
Read the abstract of Dr. Ammons' article abstract here.
Click on the image below to view Dr. Ammons' video contest submission that explains her research in plain language with the help of some animated bacteria!
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.
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.
Learn more about the Metabolomics Community
- Join the NIH Metabolomics Scientific Interest Group here.
- For Metabolomics data and resources, visit the UCSD Metabolomics Workbench.