Metabolism Mapped

Researchers unveil the most comprehensive atlas of genes underlying human metabolic pathways, paving the way for improved understanding and treatment of metabolic diseases.

May 12, 2014
Bob Grant

WIKIMEDIA, S. KORSMEYER - NCIAn international team has traced the connections between hundreds of molecules involved in metabolism and genetic regions, uncovering the roots of metabolic disorders such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. The researchers published their work—what amounts to the most comprehensive accounting of human metabolism—yesterday (May 11) in Nature Genetics.

“The sheer wealth of biological information we have uncovered is extraordinary,” lead author Nicole Soranzo, a researcher at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the U.K., said in a statement. “It’s exciting to think that researchers can now take this freely available information forward to better understand the molecular underpinnings of a vast range of metabolic associations.”

Soranzo and her colleagues linked a total of 145 genetic regions with more than 400 molecules involved in human metabolism in blood and uncovered 90 new genetic associations that were previously unknown to science. The team also built an open-access repository to share the data, which will allow researchers “to easily search through the findings, to understand genetic variants associated with metabolism one metabolite at a time and in the context of the complete metabolic network,” study coauthor Gabi Kastenmüller from Helmholtz Zentrum München in Germany, said in the statement. “This database will facilitate drug discovery for metabolic disorders and also help researchers to understand the biology behind disease.”