Think Tank on Use of Metabolomics in Population-Based Research

September 27, 2012
Neuroscience Building
6001 Executive Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20852


Metabolomics is a "top-down" systems biology approach to metabolic profiling, defined as the quantitative measurement of the dynamic multiparametric metabolic response of living systems to pathophysiological stimuli or genetic modification. The concept of metabolic phenotyping was initially introduced and developed to help explain the biochemical consequences of genetic variation in whole organisms and has emerged as a powerful new approach to augment genomic, proteomic, and transcriptomic methods for the capture of biomarker information on a range of toxicological and disease processes.

Until recently, metabolomics and other post-genomic platforms such as proteomics and transcriptomics have not been suitable for large-scale, high-throughput epidemiologic applications. Studies that employed metabolomics technologies have focused on toxicological, physiological, and disease responses in animal models and small-scale human studies. This has been due mainly to the limited capacity of the analytical platforms for sample throughput and the processing requirements for the enormous amounts of data created. Improved sample preparation (using automated liquid handling workstations), robotic sample-delivery systems, automated data processing, and use of multivariate statistical and chemometric methods, with associated reductions in cost, now are realizing the potential for metabolic phenotyping in epidemiology. Investigators have begun to extend these studies to larger scale population studies for biomarker discovery. With these studies comes the challenge of applying metabolomics technologies in a manner that generates meaningful results. Epidemiologists must strive to comprehensively understand the principles of metabolomics to determine when it is appropriate to use biomarkers identified using this technology, which includes the ability to determine when biomarkers have been validated sufficiently.

Return to Top


This Think Tank will bring together several key players in this emerging research area to share and discuss the state of the field of metabolomics in epidemiology research. The meeting will highlight the research of six metabolic experts who can shed light on how to apply this methodology to large epidemiology studies. The meeting also will be an unprecedented opportunity to hear from attendees who focus on a scientific agenda in the field of metabolomics and are interested in applying this technology to population science studies. Breakout group sessions will allow attendees to answer key questions to establish the current state of the field and help shape strategies to move this technology toward use in population-based research.

Return to Top


The meeting consisted of speaker presentations and interactive group discussions.

Speakers included:

  • Oliver Fiehn, Ph.D. - University of California, Davis
  • Robert Gerszten, M.D. - Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Bruce Kristal, Ph.D. - Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School
  • John Milner, Ph.D. - U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Svati Shah, M.D. - Duke University
  • Mukesh Verma, Ph.D. - National Cancer Institute

More detailed agenda coming soon, including presentation titles and breakout group topics.

Return to Top


For further information or questions, contact Krista Zanetti, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D.

Return to Top