LA JOLLA, CA September 10, 2012 Over the last decade, metabolomics has emerged as the newest of the "omic" sciences (following genomics and proteomics) to provide comprehensive biochemical information about cellular metabolism. This new field has revealed that many of the chemicals involved in or produced through metabolism are currently unknown, but may play vital and previously unappreciated roles in human health and disease.
A major hurdle in profiling both unknown and known metabolic compounds ("metabolites") has been the scarce amount of reference data. But a team from The Scripps Research Institute has developed a massive, searchable online metabolite database that is transforming the field and being widely used in research on countless conditions including cancer and chronic pain.
The researchers describe the newly expanded database, called METLIN, and its potential benefits in the September issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Getting Off the Beaten Path
Scientists once focused on only the major metabolic highways, well-known pathways such as glycolysis and the Krebs Cycle. New metabolomic studies have shown that other pathways and metabolites, however, also play critical roles in fundamental biological processes and the progression of disease.
"For decades biochemical studies have targeted only a handful of canonical metabolites, and comprehensive profiling has been mostly limited to genes and proteins," said Gary Patti, a former postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Research now an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis who helped develop the database. But now he says the new field of metabolomics has emerged with huge promise for medical and other advancements. "I think it's a really exciting time because the insights being provided by metabolomics are in some cases affecting the way in which we think about fundamental biochemistry," he said.
The sheer number
|Contact: Mika Ono|
Scripps Research Institute