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Metabolomics: building on a century of biochemistry to guide human health

German, J. Bruce; Hammock, Bruce D.; Watkins, Steven M.

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PMID: 16680201 PMCID: PMC1457093


Medical diagnosis and treatment efficacy will improve significantly when a more personalized system for health assessment is implemented. This system will require diagnostics that provide sufficiently detailed information about the metabolic status of individuals such that assay results will be able to guide food, drug and lifestyle choices to maintain or improve distinct aspects of health without compromising others. Achieving this goal will use the new science of metabolomics - comprehensive metabolic profiling of individuals linked to the biological understanding of human integrative metabolism. Candidate technologies to accomplish this goal are largely available, yet they have not been brought into practice for this purpose. Metabolomic technologies must be sufficiently rapid, accurate and affordable to be routinely accessible to both healthy and acutely ill individuals. The use of metabolomic data to predict the health trajectories of individuals will require bioinformatic tools and quantitative reference databases. These databases containing metabolite profiles from the population must be built, stored and indexed according to metabolic and health status. Building and annotating these databases with the knowledge to predict how a specific metabolic pattern from an individual can be adjusted with diet, drugs and lifestyle to improve health represents a logical application of the biochemistry knowledge that the life sciences have produced over the past 100 years.

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