The metabolome is the complete complement of all small molecule chemicals – metabolites - found in or produced by an organism. By analogy, if the genome represents the blueprint of life, the metabolome would be the ingredients. The scientists have catalogued and characterized 2,500 metabolites, 1,200 drugs and 3,500 food components that can be found in the human body. The researchers believe that the results of their work represent the starting point for a new era in diagnosing and detecting diseases.

They believe that the Human Metabolome Project (HMP) will have a more immediate impact on medicine and medical practices than the Human Genome Project, because the metabolome is far more sensitive to the body’s health and physiology. “Metabolites are the canaries of the genome,” says project leader Dr. Wishart, professor of computing science and biological sciences at the University of Alberta. “A single base change in our DNA can lead to a 100,000X change in metabolite levels.”

The metabolome is exquisitely sensitive to what a person eats, where they live, the time of day, the time of year, their general health and even their mood. The HMP is aimed at allowing doctors to better diagnose and treat diseases. “Most medical tests today are based on measuring metabolites in blood or urine,” Wishart says. “Unfortunately, less than 1% of known metabolites are being used in routine clinical testing. If you can only see 1% of what’s going on in the body, you’re obviously going to miss a lot.”

Detailed information about each of the 2500 metabolites identified so far can be found on the Human Metabolome Database (HMDB). “It’s the first time that this sort of data has been compiled into one spot. By decoding the human metabolome, we can identify and diagnose hundreds of diseases in a matter of seconds at a cost of pennies,” Wishart added.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Alberta