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:

Folic acid improves sperm quality, says new US report


Los Angeles: Prospective fathers should consider taking folic acid supplements to improve their chances of fathering a child, according to new US research.

A study by the University of California has found a link between high levels of the nutrient in men’s diets and the genetic quality of sperm. Those with the highest levels had the lowest proportion of sperm with genetic changes that can lead to Down’s syndrome and miscarriages.

It has already been proven that women who are trying for a baby should ensure they have adequate levels of folic acid. The B vitamin is essential for foetal development and a deficiency during the early stages of pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects in the baby, including spina bifida.

Professor Brenda Eskenazi at the University and her team looked at how micronutrients affect sperm quality. They took sperm samples from 89 healthy, non-smoking men and asked detailed questions about diet and supplement intake.

They report in the journal Human Reproduction that there was an association between levels of folate in the diet and the numbers of sperm displaying aneuploidy – chromosomal abnormalities that can lead to failure to conceive and Down’s syndrome. “There was increasing benefit with increasing intake.”

The team found no consistent association between dietary zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene and sperm quality. Eskenazi suggested men trying to father a child should consider taking multivitamin supplements containing folate.

UK’s first public debate on genetic screening to be held in London


London: Genetic screening for common diseasesÂ…Â…..Fact or fiction?

The UK’s first public debate on genetic screening is being held at The Wellcome Institute, London, Thursday 8th November 6.30pm – 8.30pm. For more information go to

There has been so much in the press this year about the use of genetic screening as a powerful new diagnostic tool for predicting risk in areas such as:

Heart disease, thrombosis, hypertension, metabolism and obesity, osteoporosis, drug metabolism, and cancer predisposition, especially prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.

But is it really what it is cracked up to be? Is there a proven link between some gene polymorphisms and the onset of age related diseases.

Here for the first time an eminent group of doctors and scientists discuss the facts, the scientific evidence, and the potential application in the physicianÂ’s surgery.

For two hours on Thursday evening you can have a unique opportunity to hear, not only from leading researchers and clinicians, but also from doctors who have been using this exciting new tool for over two years in the UK.

The excellent speakers: Prof Stephen Bustin (Barts and The London), Prof Mark McCarthy (Oxford), Dr Paul Jenkins (Barts), Dr Lobo (Barts), Dr Brull (The Whittington).

This is the first event of its kind in the UK and a unique opportunity to learn about this powerful new diagnostic tool.

Places will be limited as the lecture hall only holds 150. So please book your place online as soon as you can, to be assured of your place. There will be a small exhibition alongside the meeting, a good opportunity to network and enjoy a glass of wine afterwards.

To register please call + 44 (0)20 8742 3789 so we can register you. For more information to or email

This event is sponored by the UK’s Genetic Health, Roche and the magazine Body Language.

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 GeneticHealthÂ’s gene testing is a swab taken from the patientÂ’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 GeneticHealthÂ’s medical experts.

The clinicÂ’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 clinicÂ’s experts. There are seven genetic tests to chose from and range in price from ÂŁ180 to ÂŁ825.

The clinicÂ’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.