Metabolomics - the stethoscope for the 21st century

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Published: 2020-12-03

Formatted citation

Ashrafian H, Glen R, Ebbels T, Blaise B, Kalra D, Kultima K, Spjuth O, Tenori L, Sounderajah V, Salek RM, Kale N, Haug K, Schober D, Rocca-Serra P, O'Donovan C, Steinbeck C, Cano I, de Atauri P, Cascante M. Metabolomics - the stethoscope for the 21st century.
Medical Principles and Practice. 30, 301–310. (2020). DOI: 10.1159/000513545


Metabolomics offers systematic identification and quantification of all metabolic products from the human body. This field could provide clinicians with new sets of diagnostic biomarkers for disease states in addition to quantifying treatment response to medications at an individualised level. This literature review aims to highlight the technology underpinning metabolic profiling, identify potential applications of metabolomics in clinical practice and discuss the translational challenges that the field faces. We searched PubMed, Medline and Embase for primary and secondary research articles regarding clinical applications of metabolomics. Metabolic profiling can be performed using mass spectrometry and NMR based techniques using a variety of biological samples. This is carried out in vivo or in vitro following careful sample collection, preparation and analysis. The potential clinical applications constitute disruptive innovations in their respective specialities, particularly oncology and metabolic medicine. Outstanding issues currently preventing widespread clinical use centre around scalability of data interpretation, standardisation of sample handling practice and e-infrastructure. Routine utilisation of metabolomics at a patient and population level will constitute an integral part of future healthcare provision.