Metabolic fingerprinting can reveal causes of disease


London: Causes of disease can be revealed by metabolic fingerprinting, according to first ever ‘metabolome-wide’ study.

Your metabolic ‘fingerprint’ can reveal much about the possible causes of major diseases, according to the first ‘metabolome-wide’ association study ever carried out, published today in the journal Nature.

The study provides new insights into the possible causes of high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, by analysing the metabolic fingerprints of 4,630 adults in the UK, USA, China and Japan, from their urine samples.

Metabolic fingerprinting looks at the relative levels of many different metabolites, which are the products of metabolism, in a person’s blood or urine. Metabolites act as markers which can reveal a lot about how diet and lifestyle contribute to risks for certain diseases.

The research shows that adults in the UK and USA, which have similar incidences of high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, have similar metabolic fingerprints, reflecting similar lifestyles in spite of their geographical distance from one another.

In contrast, although adults in Japan and China have similar genetic profiles, they have very different metabolic fingerprints from one another and from adults in the UK and USA, and also have major differences in the incidence of many diseases.

Japanese people living in the USA have metabolic fingerprints that resemble other people in the USA, and dissimilar fingerprints to their counterparts living in Japan. This shows that lifestyle is a dominant feature in determining metabolism.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, one of the authors of the research from the Department of Biomolecular Medicine at Imperial College London, said:

“Our research illustrates how metabolome-wide association studies can give us important clues as to the causes of major health problems such as high blood pressure. Metabolic profiling can tell us how specific aspects of a person’s diet and how much they drink are contributing to their risks for certain diseases, and these are things which we can’t investigate by looking at a person’s DNA. What is really important is that we can test out our new hypotheses directly, in a way that is not
easy with genetic biomarkers”.

Professor Paul Elliott, a co-author of the research from the Department
of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College, added:

“The flip-side of this is that whereas a person can’t alter their DNA, they can change their metabolic profile by changing their diet and lifestyle. This means that as we figure out where the problems lie, we should also be able to show people ways to reduce their risk of certain diseases.”

The new study reveals that people with increased levels of the amino acid alanine, which is found in many foods but which is particularly high in animal protein, have higher blood pressure and also increased energy intake, levels of dietary cholesterol, and body mass index.

People with increased levels of the metabolite formate have lower blood pressure and increased energy intake. Formate arises from the action of microbes in the gut or as a product of metabolism in the body.

Increased levels of hippurate, a by-product of metabolism by microbes in the gut, are found in people with lower blood pressure, lower levels of alcohol intake, and higher levels of dietary fibre.

For the study, researchers took urine samples from volunteers aged between 40 and 59 and analysed these for over several thousand metabolite signals, using NMR spectroscopy and advanced statistics. The volunteers were participating in the INTERMAP study, an epidemiological study investigating the links between diet and blood pressure.

The study was carried out by researchers from Imperial College London, UK; Northwestern University, Chicago, USA; Akademisch Ziekenhuis St Rafael, Belgium; Shiga University of Medical Science, Japan; and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, China. It was funded by the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and local funders in the participating countries.

More information:

1. “Human metabolic phenotype diversity and its association with diet and blood pressure” Nature, 20 April 2008

Corresponding author: Jeremy Nicholson, Imperial College London (for full list of authors please see paper)

2. About high blood pressure (source: Blood Pressure Association, UK)

* 16 million people in the UK have high blood pressure

* High blood pressure is the major cause of stroke, dementia, heart attacks and heart failure and it is responsible for more than half of these. These are the major causes of death and disability in the UK.

3. About metabolism (source: Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary, fifth
edition). Metabolism is the sum of all the chemical and physical changes that
take place within the body and enable its continued growth and

* Metabolism involves the breakdown of the complex organic constituents of the body with the liberation of energy, which is required for other processes and the building up of complex substances, which form the material of the tissues and organs, from simple ones.

4. About Imperial College London

Imperial College London – rated the world’s fifth best university in the 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement University Rankings – is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 12,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and
business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment – underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture. Website:

Israeli scientists invent robot ‘sub’ that travels through human veins

Tel Aviv: Israeli scientists have created a robot ‘submarine’ which is so small it can swim through the veins to provide medical treatment.

Dr Nir Schwalb, of the Judea and Samaria College, and Oded Salomon, of the Israel Institute of Technology, say their machine has the unique ability to ‘crawl’ through tubes the width of blood vessels and is even able to travel against the flow of blood, using magnetic power, as it passes through veins and arteries.

Previous micro-robots have been too large to enter the smallest and most complex areas of the body but the latest is one millimetre in diameter and has tiny arms which allow it to ‘grip’ as it travels along. The robot is still in development but it is hoped that in future it may be used to treat a variety of diseases including cancer.

Mr Salomon said: ‘We believe we have created a robot that will be tiny enough to pass through the body and at the same time have navigational abilities for performing-complex medical tasks. We are discussing with doctors from many different fields which application will be most useful.

Micro-surgery is usually carried out with catheters and endoscopes which are far too large for most parts of the body.

Don’t let your past kill your future – get tested at Britain’s first private patient gene clinic


London: Genetic screening reveals a vital part of our life story: the part that was unknown until the discovery of the human genome – that is all the genes in each individual cell responsible for life. Now for the first time with genetic testing you can discover which genes you have been handed down – those responsible for protecting your body and which ones have the potential to harm you.

The aim of genetic testing is to foresee and with medical intervention prevent the “envelope of diseases” that may dispose certain individuals to debilitating and or life threatening illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

GeneticHealth is the first clinic in the UK – based in London’s Harley Street, to offer the latest scientific testing, analysis and medical intervention to prevent and protect individuals from the life-threatening diseases and illnesses they may have inherited.

The basis of GeneticHealth’s gene testing is a swab taken from the patient’s mouth which is used to analyse 45 genes that are clinically proven to have an effect on the way humans age and our resistance to age-related diseases. These are technically known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and, in particular, will tell you if you are prone to:

• Heart and cardiovascular disease
• Stroke
• Cancer
• Osteoporosis
• Obesity
• Diabetes
• Inflammation

Patients receive a 50-page report which examines in detail the state of their health, and includes a detailed results analysis and interpretation by our genetic doctors. Afterwards the client receives a medical consultation in which allows them to understand the implications of their individual genetic profile and what can be done to change their risk profile. GeneticHealth provides the opportunity for tailor made strategies to be developed to minimizing the risk of many of the diseases covered by the genetic analysis, especially cardiovascular disease. Your bespoke medical intervention programme is created with you by GeneticHealth’s medical experts.

The clinic’s Medical Director, Dr Paul Jenkins comments:

“I am convinced that the advent of effective genetic analysis will become increasingly relevant to individuals and clinicians seeking to minimise the burden of age-related diseases. For the first time, we are able to more accurately determine and individuals overall risk profile for many diseases by combining their genetic risk to that of lifestyle and environmental influences. Such an approach has enormous implications for healthcare and disease prevention in the 21st century.”

The results of the test are the basis for bespoke medical intervention including nutrition and other advice/therapies from the clinic’s experts. There are seven genetic tests to chose from and range in price from £180 to £825.

The clinic’s expert analytical team of medical experts and scientists in the field of genetics and healthy ageing includes:

• Dr Paul Jenkins MA, BChir, MD, FRCP – Reader in Endocrine Oncology, Honorary Consultant Physician, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London. He is Medical Advisor of the European Scanning Centre, which is one of only two centres in the UK to use an Electron Beam CT (EBCT) scanner. He leads an active research team and has published over 60 research papers in the field of hormones and genetic actions in the human body. He has a special interest in the role of genetics in disease prevention and ageing.

• Professor Stephen Bustin, BA,PhD – Professor of Molecular Medicine, Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Queen Mary University of London. Stephen is a leading researcher in the genetic determinants of colonic cancer.

• Dr Lynette Yong, MAm MBBSm FRCSm LF Hom – Dr Yong studied medicine at Cambridge University and at St Mary’s Hospital, London. She completed her surgical fellowship in London with the Royal College of Surgeons of England. She has a special interest in the application of genetic analysis to the prescribing of hormones for men and women.

Patient information can be obtained by calling +44(0) 870 043 5551 email:

GeneticHealth is a clinically led company, based at 68 Harley Street, London W1, run by world-renowned doctors and genetic scientists.

Too much red meat may cause rheumatoid arthritis, say researchers

London: Eating lots of red meat increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, say researchers at Manchester University. And smoking increases the risk of chronic ageing diseases.

Epidermiologists from the university researched 25,000 people aged between 45 and 75. They compared the diets of the 88 diagnosed with rhumatoid arthritis, the condition causes membranes lining the joints to become inflamed, leading to pain and swelling, with those in a control group of 175 others. The findings are published in the Arthritis and Rheumatism journal.

They discoverd that those who ate large mounts of red meat and who smoked were more likely to have inflammatory arthritis.

Only 35 per cent of those who suffered from arthritis had never smoked, compared with 85 per cent of the control group.

The researchers concluded that the eating of red meat would likely only affect those predisposed to the condition.

‘It may be that the high collagen content of meat leads to collagen sensitisation and consequent production of anticollagen antibodies, most likely in a subgroup of susceptible individuals,’ the team said.

‘Meat consumption may be linked to either additives or even infectious agents, but again there is no evidence as to what might be important in relation to rheumatoid arthritis.’

Experts said last night that while people who eat large quantities of red meat should consider cutting down, they should not panic.

A spokesman for the Arthritis Research Campaign, which funded the study, said: ‘This provides further evidence that environmental factors can help to trigger rheumatoid arthritis.

‘In the light of this new evidence, we would suggest that, as part of a healthy lifestyle, people should cut down the amount of red meat they eat.’

But he added: ‘We wouldn’t want people to think that if they eat four burgers a week they are going to develop rheumatoid arthritis the following week, because there are other risk factors that come into play – genetic susceptibility, smoking and low intake of Vitamin C.

‘Red meat in itself is not dangerous to health, but should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced, healthy diet.’