Metabolon Blog

Duh, it’s your biochemistry!

A lively discussion happened recently in a staff meeting on the need to raise awareness in the gene and protein world about how metabolism fits into their paradigm and why it’s important. The topic aroused a range of opinions, but on this day, one of my more enthusiastic colleagues proclaimed, “Duh, it’s your biochemistry!” He opined that the significance of biochemical research and metabolomics should be plainly evident for understanding biological systems, disease and health.

How effective is this statement to most life scientists - life scientists who, like me, were trained in an era of molecular biology?

As a Ph.D. student, I pursued fundamental biological questions using molecular biology as the focal point of my thinking and approach. From that perspective, it’s easy to see how my colleague’s statement would fail to intellectually or viscerally connect with me. It would not have been clear to me at the time that the biochemical pathways of metabolism are fundamental to almost all aspects of living systems and a proxy of the phenotype (DeBarardinis and Thompson, 2012). I suspect the same for many of my fellow life scientists.

This topic comes up frequently at Metabolon. While the last 30 years of life science research and training have been heavily focused on molecular biology, there is growing interest in biochemistry (McKnight, 2010). That’s an exciting prospect for us, since it may help researchers and clinicians complete the picture when attempting to define gene function and assess health, risk and progression of disease, and treatment response.

I’m kicking off the blog with this particular inaugural post, because my colleagues and I will be sharing our thoughts on news and applications of metabolomics and its value as a first-line phenotyping tool. We hope lively discussions unfold and that we all share a few “duh” moments. 

Comments (2) -

  • Brante Sampey

    7/27/2015 8:54:16 PM | Reply

    Interesting inaugural post!  Coming from a background in toxicology, metabolic disease and cancer biology, metabolism has strongly influenced the approaches I have taken in the laboratory.  But having said that, the concept of clarifying the penetrance from the complexity of genomic and transcript data with the phenotype of the system through metabolomic analysis struck me initially with a bit of skepticism.  That is until I stepped back away from a traditionally strict focus on molecular biology to see the bigger picture of the hierarchy of the 'omics and the refinement of the data as one moves from genes to transcripts to enzymes to biochemicals.  The solidifying factors for me being the relative simplicity of the metabolome (vs. genes and transcripts), the high degree of biochemical pathway annotation that has played out over the past century and the proximity of biochemistry to the phenotype (Ah-ha moment!).  Since then I have seen numerous publications applying the data from biochemistry (metabolomics) of a system to resolve the complexity of its transcript data, SNP data and the like - in order to resolve the phenotypic impact of the select few relevant, penetrant alterations (disease, drug response, etc.).  I believe that any open-minded scientist who embraces using a broad array of methodologies that expand upon a highly focused approach will have their own ah-ha moments - which, years from now may translate into the "duh" effect wrt the fit of metabolomics (and other growing technologies) within the focused worlds of genes and proteins.

  • muita

    7/6/2016 7:44:58 AM | Reply

    Thanks for sharing..