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Canadian Researchers Draft Recipe for Human Metabolome


The metabolome is the complete complement of all small molecule chemicals (metabolites) found in or produced by an organism. By analogy, if the genome represents the blueprint of life, the metabolome represents the ingredients of life. "That includes things like amino acids, sugars, fats and cholesterol," said project leader Dr. David Wishart, professor of Computing Science and Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta and senior research officer at the National Institute for Nanotechnology.

"If we truly want to understand our bodies, we need to know what they're made of. Just like a chef needs to know what, and how much of each ingredient he needs to bake a cake, physician need to know how much of which ingredients are in our bodies, to know whether we're healthy or sick," he continued.

The Human Metabolome Project
The Human Metabolome Project (HMP), funded with $7.5-million by Genome Canada through Genome Alberta, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Machine Learning, and the Univerity of Alberta will have far-reaching benefits to patient care. The researchers believe that the results of the HMP, which began in Canada in 2004, represent the starting point for a new era in diagnosing and detecting diseases and will have a more immediate impact on medicine and medical practices than the Human Genome Project.

The metabolome is exquisitely sensitive to what a person eats, where they live, the time of day, the time of year, their general health and even their mood. “Most medical tests today are based on measuring metabolites in blood or urine,” Wishart says. “Unfortunately, less than 1% of known metabolites are being used in routine clinical testing. If you can only see 1% of what’s going on in the body, you’re obviously going to miss a lot.”

By measuring or acquiring chemical, biological and disease association data on all known human metabolites, the HMP Consortium, which consists of some 50 scientists based at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, has spent the past two-and-a-half years compiling the remaining 95 per cent of all known metabolites in the human metabolome.

2,500 metabolites that serve as the bricks and mortar of the human body, as well as approximately 1,200 drugs and 3,500 chemicals found in the food we eat have been catalogued. The research is published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research .

Detailed information about each of the 2,500 metabolites identified so far can be found on the Human Metabolome Database (HMDB).

The cited publication

David S. Wishart, Dan Tzur, Craig Knox, Roman Eisner, An Chi Guo, Nelson Young, Dean Cheng, Kevin Jewell, David Arndt, Summit Sawhney, Chris Fung, Lisa Nikolai, Mike Lewis, Marie-Aude Coutouly, Ian Forsythe, Peter Tang, Savita Shrivastava, Kevin Jeroncic, Paul Stothard, Godwin Amegbey, David Block, David. D. Hau, James Wagner, Jessica Miniaci, Melisa Clements, Mulu Gebremedhin, Natalie Guo, Ying Zhang, Gavin E. Duggan, Glen D. MacInnis, Alim M. Weljie, Reza Dowlatabadi, Fiona Bamforth, Derrick Clive, Russ Greiner, Liang Li, Tom Marrie, Brian D. Sykes, Hans J. Vogel, and Lori Querengesser, HMDB: the Human Metabolome Database, Nucl. Acids Res. 2007 35: D521-D526; DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkl923

Related Information

The Human Metabolome Database

last time modified: June 23, 2020


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