Metabolomics is an emerging field of science that involves the large-scale characterization and quantification of metabolites in human and animal systems. The powerful approach is gaining popularity because metabolites directly reflect underlying biochemical activity, meaning metabolomics delivers a highly accurate representation of the molecular phenotype.
Science in 1 minute: What is metabolomics?
In recent years, metabolomics research has revealed important information about rare and common diseases. Numerous metabolite biomarkers have been identified for diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, cancer, and diabetes. The biomarkers are being used to help develop important diagnostic and therapeutic tools, which have helped to establish metabolomics as an important field of science.
Application Areas of Metabolomics
For decades, scientists have researched disease under the assumption that disease is mostly caused by genetics. However, genetics research has yielded fewer genes and mutations that underlie disease than was expected. This has led to a paradigm shift towards focusing on the importune of environmental influences in disease. In recent years, the microbiome and epigenome have been increasingly studied in relation to disease. Metabolomics facilitates this shift in attitudes as it allows scientists to understand the relationship between the microbiome and its role in disease.
Metabolomics has emerged as an important tool in pharmaceuticals, disease prevention, therapeutics, agriculture, and more. It is used in functional genomics to ascertain the phenotypes that may be produced from certain genetic manipulation. It is also used in nutrigenomics, where knowledge from genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics is combined with metabolomics to obtain a metabolic fingerprint of an individual. It is also used in clinical research to help further our understanding of disease. Metabolomic biomarkers, for example, are increasingly used to study cancer. Additionally, metabolomic biomarkers are being relied on by a growing number of diagnostic tools.
Pharmaceutical research uses metabolomics in drug efficacy and screening tests. Finally, it is also leveraged in agronomy and plant biology to gain a deeper understanding of how plans behave in different stress conditions.
Hot Topics in Metabolomics
Metabolomics is a rapidly evolving field; in the coming years, we can expect many breakthroughs in the applications of metabolomics in a wide range of sectors. In particular, we will see developments in automated, quantitative, NMR-based metabolomics, LS-MS systems, and other high-throughput metabolomics systems.
For example, Bruker's food screeners are a recent state-of-the-art breakthrough in NMR-based metabolomics. The innovation, which is improving quality control processes in the food industry, will likely be followed by other NMR-based developments. Commercial kits by Biocrats Life Sciences and blackbox systems like AB Sciex's Lipidyzer are examples of emerging LS-MS systems that are making waves in the metabolomics market.
Cancer is also a current hot topic in metabolomics. Much metabolomics research is focussed on deepening our understanding of the disease, and currently, much of this work is being achieved with NMR or MS coupled with gas- or liquid-phase chromatography. These studies are developing our knowledge of the pathophysiological pathways of cancer as well as how to manage the disease. Metabolomic strategies have helped to classify tumors and design customized, cutting-edge cancer therapies. Precision medicine is a fast-moving segment in medicine, particularly in oncology. Metabolomics is facilitating this movement, particularly since The Cancer Genome Atlas was analyzed, resulting in the discovery of at least one metabolic gene alteration per tumor.
Finally, neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, are another current key focus of metabolomics research. These diseases are often only diagnosed once symptoms are displayed, which may happen many years after the disease starts developing in the brain. Therefore, there is a need for novel systems that can detect neurodegenerative diseases at early stages. Recent metabolomics research indicates an opportunity to detect the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease by measuring patterns of certain metabolites. For example, research has revealed links between gut microbiota and the progression of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Image Credit: PopTika/Shutterstock.com
Current Global Market of Metabolomics
The global metabolomics market was valued at $2,032 million in 2020 and is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 12.2% from 2021 to 2030 to reach a valuation of $6,663 million.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped to accelerate growth in the global metabolomics market. Metabolomics was put under the spotlight as it was applied in research to understand the nature of the COVID-19 disease. For example, metabolomics studies revealed that alterations reflected the clinical presentation of COVID-19 in the plasma metabolome. Therefore, with metabolomics, scientists could predict which cases would likely be mild, moderate, or critical.
Additionally, the growing demand for precision medicine is accelerating the metabolomics market's growth. Metabolomics studies are already developing novel therapeutics for chronic diseases, including Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cancer. Currently, cancer represents the largest market for metabolomics in terms of indication. Growth in this segment is predicted for the forecast period. The indication of neurological disorders will grow at the highest CAGR, however.
North America currently represents the largest region in the metabolomics market. Over the forecast period, Asia Pacific will grow at the highest CAGR, potentially overtaking North America in the next decade.
Key industry players include Agilent Technologies INC., BiocratesLife Science AG, Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., Bruker Corporation, and Danaher Corporation.
Future Directions for Metabolomics
Metabolomics may develop in several ways in the coming years, given the sector's vast potential. In particular, current hot topics of MS-based metabolomics, as well as LC/MS and GC/MS, will drive the industry. Advances in technology are expected alongside groundbreaking discoveries that will facilitate the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutic approaches.
In the near future, it is predicted that metabolomics will develop the landscape of cancer treatment and may be leveraged in three ways: the establishment of therapeutic biomarkers, the evaluation of the molecular efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents, and the classification of tissue types based on molecular patterns to better understand underlying pathways.
Image Credit: CI Photos/Shutterstock.com
The field of metabolomics is still in its infancy, although it has great potential. In the next decade, we will likely see rapid developments in metabolomics technology and the number of applications in which metabolomics is used. Cancer therapies will hopefully benefit greatly from these developments.
Continue learning about metabolomics here!
- Clish, C.B. (2015) "Metabolomics: An emerging but powerful tool for precision medicine," Molecular Case Studies, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1101/mcs.a000588
- Gonzalez-Covarrubias, V., Martínez-Martínez, E. and del Bosque-Plata, L. (2022) "The potential of metabolomics in biomedical applications," Metabolites, 12(2), p. 194. https://doi.org/10.3390/metabo12020194
- Metabolomics Market by Product and Service [online]. Valuates Reports. Available from: https://reports.valuates.com/reports/ALLI-Auto-0P183/metabolomics (Last accessed November 2022)
- Wishart, D. (2016) "Emerging applications of metabolomics in drug discovery and precision medicine," Nat Rev Drug Discov 15, 473–484 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrd.2016.32
- Yang, Q. et al. (2019) "Metabolomics Biotechnology, applications, and future trends: A systematic review," RSC Advances, 9(64), pp. 37245–37257. https://doi.org/10.1039/c9ra06697g