A fascinating new field that became possible thanks to metabolic profiling where other approaches failed is metabologeography, or the differentiation of geography-related metabotypes. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, Ph.D., leader of the department of biogeochemistry and analytics at the German Research Center for Environmental Health in Munich, and his French collaborators at the UNSECO Chair Culture et Traditions du Vin and University of Burgundy in Dijon, used a nontargeted metabolomics approach primarily based on ultrahigh-resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) mass spectrometry to demonstrate that it is possible not only to differentiate red from white wine, but also to determine the type of grapes that were used.
“The challenges in metabolic profiling are the same and are independent of the question you are exploring. The primary challenge is to get an ideal experimental sample setup and to combine the right high-resolution analytical and statistical/mathematical tools,” says Dr. Schmitt-Kopplin.
Using a combination of multidimensional separation techniques to spectrometry (FTICR-MS, 12 Tesla) and spectroscopy (Cryo-NMR, 500 & 800 MHz), his department recently embarked on various studies related to environmental issues (meta-metabolome and C-cycling in the oceans, terrestrial environments, and atmosphere related to global climate change), food chemistry (GMO, beverage metabotyping), nutrition and health (new noninvasive sampling techniques such as exhaled breath condensates and pathogen interactions).
Recently, Dr. Schmitt-Kopplin and collaborators used FTICR mass spectrometry to examine the metabolic profiles of fecal water extracts from twins with Crohn’s disease. Comparing healthy, concordant and discordant twins revealed that there are differences in the metabolome/microbiome, not only between healthy- and Crohn’s-disease individuals but even between patients in whom inflammatory changes were localized primarily in the colon versus ileum.
Besides unveiling new metabolites that are differentially present in patients with the disease and could provide important noninvasive diagnostic or monitoring biomarkers, the approach revealed that not only specific metabolites, but also metabolic pathways, are important to be considered as potential biomarker or therapeutic targets.