Metabolic profiling in human exposome studies

TitleMetabolic profiling in human exposome studies
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsAthersuch TJ, Keun HC
Date Published11/2015

The human metabolome-the complement of small molecule metabolites present in biofluids and tissues-represents a significant part of the internal chemical milieu and is therefore an important aspect of the human exposome. Metabolic profiling approaches, commonly referred to as metabonomics or metabolomics, permit detailed and efficient characterisation of human biospecimens; application to population studies holds great promise for uncovering new associations and causal relationships between environmental factors and chronic disease. In addition to the insight metabolic information can provide, metabolic phenotypes anchor other molecular readouts and help formulate a systems-level interpretation of biological phenomena. In this commentary, we discuss the general approach for applying metabolic profiling in exposome studies, alongside recent exemplars. We also comment on the complexity and dynamism of the metabolome and highlight both the limitations such properties impart and the requirements for dealing with such issues in real-world phenotyping studies. Given that several large-scale exposome studies are now underway, we offer a perspective on current and future challenges that will need to be addressed to maximise their utility in environmental health research.

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