To round off our series on the Metabolomics of disease, Genome Medicine’s Editor, Rebecca Furlong, talks to leading scientists Tim Veenstra, David Wishart and Jeremy Nicholson.
Tim Veenstra (National Cancer Institute at Frederick) discusses the tremendous potential of metabolomics and hopes that it can avoid the pitfalls of the early days of proteomics, when numerous potential biomarkers were discovered but many weren’t subjected to validation to see whether they really were useful for disease detection.
Through the Human Metabolome Project, David Wishart (University of Alberta in Edmonton) and co-workers have been compiling a database of all the metabolites in the human body and adding to this data with further experiments. Current estimates suggest there are between 45,000 and 50,000 chemicals in the human body if food-derived compounds, toxins and pollutants are considered. The human genome has around 25,000 genes, and so we’re beginning to get an idea of how complex the metabolome is.
Jeremy Nicholson (Imperial College London) highlights the research underway to use new metabolic technologies to improve diagnosis and to help select potential therapies. For example, it could be used to understand why some people respond to anti-cancer drugs and others don’t. He also talks about the intelligent knife project for surgery: the surgeon cuts into the patient with a knife that generates smoke that can be fed straight in to a mass spectrometer to provide diagnostic information about what the surgeon is cutting in less than a second.
The podcast is available to stream below.