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Metabolomics
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Metabolomics...Gesundheit!

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Student Exploration

Looks Like A Job For BSI (Biological Scene Investigation)

Some people have likened human bodies to huge chemical factories because of all the constant reactions that are occurring. While most people rarely think about this, the mitochondria in our bodies are constantly working away - synapses are firing exchanging neurotransmitters, food is being broken down and absorbed, cells are being recycled and on and on and on. All these processes are part of our metabolism; what makes us run and allows us to live. Some of the results of our metabolism are "metabolites". These are small molecules which can either be intermediates in our metabolic processes, helping reactions run efficiently or they can also be the breakdown products of reactions, the leftovers from the process of cutting up molecules to make other molecules. In general, the key to metabolites is they are small molecules which result from our metabolism. So what's the deal? Whoopdeedoo! Well consider the situation where your metabolism isn't working so great, something's gone wrong, and it isn't clear what. Scientists have realized that in these situations looking at metabolites can give you an idea of what is wrong. They have realized that potentially these metabolites could tell you something is wrong before you even know it. So pee in a cup and let the doctor tell you what's wrong. Here's Dr. Jeremy Nicholson to tell you more about this new field of medicine.

You may have realized there is more to metabolomics than peeing in a cup. Metabolites occur throughout the cells and tissues in our bodies, however scientists are still identifying all the metabolites our body produces. Since urine can be viewed as concentrated metabolites our body no longer needs, it's a pretty good place to start building a data base. The important concept to remember is that by looking at the leftovers, the little stuff, it is possible to gain insight into how a person's metabolism is functioning, and through this insight help improve its functioning.

Extension Investigation

Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. What is metabolomics?
  2. What made Jeremy Nicholson change his mind about the "damn gut microbes" that were messing up his data? What new line of research did this lead to?
  3. How do microbes affect the way the human body responds to Tylenol? What effect does this have on some people? What are the implications of this work?
  4. What percentage of human deaths are directly linked to genetic factors? How does this inform researchers who want to study the response humans have to their environment?
  5. What is meant by individualized medicine? What kind of information is necessary to make this a reality? What is a more likely intermediate step?
  6. How are metabolomics being used to help people recover from surgery?

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