Monday, January 29, 2007

What is the Human Body Made Of?

Have you ever wondered what the human body is made of?

Well, a team at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada, did and realized the first draft of the human metabolome (the totality of metabolites from the human body). The metabolites are the small chemicals found in or produced by an organism. The team has identified and characterized 2,500 metabolites, 1,200 drugs and 3,500 food components that can be encountered in the human body.

The metabolome list could trigger a new era in detecting and treating diseases.

The Human Metabolome Project (HMP) would have a much more powerful impact on medical practices than the Human Genome Project, as the metabolites point more directly 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



and Principal Investigator at NRC, National Institute for Nanotechnology. "A single base change in our DNA can lead to a 100,000X change in metabolite levels."

"The results of this research will have a significant impact on the diagnosis, prediction, prevention and monitoring of many genetic, infectious and environmental diseases," stated Dr. David Bailey, President and CEO of Genome Alberta.

The metabolites are extremely sensitive in showing what a person eats, how he/she lives, the time of day, the time of year, his/her general health and even his/her mood. "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."

The team made up of 50 researchers based at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary completed the part of the 95 % unknown metabolites of the human metabolome in the past two and half years. "With the data in the HMDB, anyone can find out what metabolites are associated with which diseases, what the normal and abnormal concentrations are, where the metabolites are found or what genes are associated with which metabolites," Wishart says.

"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.
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