Causes of disease can be revealed by metabolic fingerprinting

Apr 21, 2008
Causes of disease can be revealed by metabolic fingerprinting
The study provides new insights into the possible causes of high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.

Your metabolic 'fingerprint' can reveal much about the possible causes of major diseases, according to the first 'metabolome-wide' association study ever carried out, published today in the journal Nature.

The study provides new insights into the possible causes of high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, by analysing the metabolic fingerprints of 4,630 adults in the UK, USA, China and Japan, from their urine samples.

Metabolic fingerprinting looks at the relative levels of many different metabolites, which are the products of metabolism, in a person's blood or urine. Metabolites act as markers which can reveal a lot about how diet and lifestyle contribute to risks for certain diseases.

The research shows that adults in the UK and USA, which have similar incidences of high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, have similar metabolic fingerprints, reflecting similar lifestyles in spite of their geographical distance from one another.

In contrast, although adults in Japan and China have similar genetic profiles, they have very different metabolic fingerprints from one another and from adults in the UK and USA, and also have major differences in the incidence of many diseases.

Japanese people living in the USA have metabolic fingerprints that resemble other people in the USA, and dissimilar fingerprints to their counterparts living in Japan. This shows that lifestyle is a dominant feature in determining metabolism.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, one of the authors of the research from the Department of Biomolecular Medicine at Imperial College London, said: "Our research illustrates how metabolome-wide association studies can give us important clues as to the causes of major health problems such as high blood pressure. Metabolic profiling can tell us how specific aspects of a person's diet can contribute to their risks for certain diseases, and these are things which we can’t investigate by looking at a person's DNA. What is really important is that we can test out our new hypotheses directly, in a way that is not easy with genetic biomarkers."

Professor Paul Elliott, a co-author of the research from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College, added: "The flip-side of this is that whereas a person can't alter their DNA, they can change their metabolic profile by changing their diet and lifestyle. This means that as we figure out where the problems lie, we should also be able to show people ways to reduce their risk of certain diseases."

The new study reveals that people with increased levels of the amino acid alanine, which is found in many foods but which is particularly high in animal protein, have higher blood pressure and also increased energy intake, levels of dietary cholesterol, and body mass index.

People with increased levels of the metabolite formate have lower blood pressure and increased energy intake. Formate arises from the action of microbes in the gut or as a product of metabolism in the body.

Increased levels of hippurate, a by-product of metabolism by microbes in the gut, are found in people with lower blood pressure, lower levels of alcohol intake, and higher levels of dietary fibre.

For the study, researchers took urine samples from volunteers aged between 40 and 59 and analysed these for over several thousand metabolite signals, using NMR spectroscopy and advanced statistics. The volunteers were participating in the INTERMAP study, an epidemiological study investigating the links between diet and blood pressure.

The study was carried out by researchers from Imperial College London, UK; Northwestern University, Chicago, USA; Akademisch Ziekenhuis St Rafael, Belgium; Shiga University of Medical Science, Japan; and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, China. It was funded by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and local funders in the participating countries.

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: Growing a blood vessel in a week

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russia turns back clocks to permanent Winter Time

16 hours ago

Russia on Sunday is set to turn back its clocks to winter time permanently in a move backed by President Vladimir Putin, reversing a three-year experiment with non-stop summer time that proved highly unpopular.

UN climate talks shuffle to a close in Bonn

16 hours ago

Concern was high at a perceived lack of urgency as UN climate negotiations shuffled towards a close in Bonn on Saturday with just 14 months left to finalise a new, global pact.

Microsoft beefs up security protection in Windows 10

21 hours ago

What Microsoft users in business care deeply about—-a system architecture that supports efforts to get their work done efficiently; a work-centric menu to quickly access projects rather than weather readings ...

Comet Siding Spring whizzes past Mars (Update)

Oct 19, 2014

A comet the size of a small mountain and about as solid as a pile of talcum powder whizzed past Mars on Sunday, dazzling space enthusiasts with the once-in-a-million-years encounter.

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

Oct 24, 2014

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

Oct 24, 2014

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments : 0