What is Metabolomics?

Metabolomics is defined as the comprehensive analysis of small molecules called metabolites present in the cells, biofluids, tissues or organisms. Metabolomics provides a comprehensive profile of the metabolites, evaluates patterns related to the core biological systems and offers insight in to the biochemical dysfunction that may need attention.

It is an emerging technology that holds promise to enable the practice of precision medicine at different levels such as, characterization of metabolic disturbance that underlie disease, discovery of new therapeutic targets and biomarkers that can help with diagnosis and disease prevention.

Precision Medicine is an emerging approach for disease management (treatment and prevention) that takes in account variability in genes, environment and lifestyle for each individual.

The two main analytical platforms used for metabolomics are Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy and Mass Spectrometry (MS).

  • In NMR Spectroscopy, a compound placed in the magnetic field absorbs radiation and each of its’ isotope resonates at a frequency. A collection of peaks at different positions and intensities for each compound is formed which is unique for each compound and is referred to as the NMR spectrum. It provides structural details about the compound which helps in the identification of the unknown metabolites.

The major drawback of this technique is its low sensitivity. Therefore metabolites present  in low abundance may get missed in the analysis.

  • In Mass Spectrometry, biomolecules derived from the samples are separated by liquid chromatography (LC) or gas chromatography (GC). The mass to charge ratio of the ions derived by fragmenting the ionized parent compound is determined by mass spectrometry. The mass spectrum is then analysed to identify the key metabolites using bioinformatic tools.

This technique can be linked to liquid or gas chromatography.

  • Liquid Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS)

It is an analytical chemistry technique that utilises the separation capabilities of liquid chromatography (LC) and mass analysis capabilities of mass spectrometry (MS). It is a highly sensitive technique and has applications across a wide range of industries including biotechnology, pharmaceutical, agrochemical and cosmetic industry.

The analyte (mix of liquids) is separated using liquid chromatography into different components followed by mass spectrometry that provides spectral information to help identify or confirm each of the separated components.

  • Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

Historically considered as the gold standard for analyzing biochemical compounds such as lipids, proteins and drug metabolites. It is composed of two main components: Gas Chromatography (GC) and Mass Spectrometry (MS). Gas chromatography is technique used for separating compounds that can easily be vaporized without decomposition. Once separated, the coupled mass spectrometer identifies the different separated and eluted substances based on the MS principle described above. One of the advantages of GC-MS is the reproducible fragmentation pattern for each metabolite which allows for easy identification based on known metabolite patterns stored in a database.

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Intrinsic Analytics is Manitoba’s premier bioinformation services company. We provide personalized and customizable bioinformation and biochemical analysis for individuals, commercial enterprises and government agencies. We offer two main platforms, occupational health and personal health. In addition, we engage in health research aimed at developing new health related assays.

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