Metabonomics: biomarkers for healthy aging stratification and elderly nutritional health monitoring
Aging is a very complex process because many biochemical processes happen to the human organisms that affect all levels, from organ to cells, and lead to a wide variety of altered biochemical functions. Whilst it is possible to determine the metabolic and nutritional status of individuals in a given stage, challenges remain to understand how the metabolism of an individual drifts towards an unhealthy stage. This requires novel approaches enabling the phenotypic characterization of the gradual development of age-related chronic disorders at epidemiological and individual scales. Metabonomics is a valuable tool for investigating in a single approach changes in metabolic regulations, and then linking these to the phenotypic outcome. As such, the characterization of key pathways involved in aging could provide benefits in specific aging conditions as in frailty. If frailty represents a transitional phase between successful aging and negative health outcomes the availability of potential metabolic readouts may enable in the future the proper identification of “at risk” subjects and monitor the evolution of their “at risk” conditions under different nutrition and healthcare management programs.
Metabonomics is an effective tool for studying how the metabolism, expressed as the ensemble of metabolites in a system, changes in association with the pathophysiology of diseases and in response to specific stimuli (1). Three main applications are today mostly employed in human studies: pharmaco-metabonomics (drug-targets identification) (2) personalized medicine (biomarker screening/diagnosis/validation) (3), and nutritional intervention (4). On practical terms, metabonomics allows the simultaneous identification and quantification of small molecules (molecular weight less than 1.5 kDa) in a biological system (typically as samples of biofluids such as blood plasma, serum and urine or tissues). These metabolites include intermediaries of the metabolism, signaling molecules such as hormones, and other secondary metabolites.
In humans, metabonomics studies rely on the analysis of biological fluids (blood, urine), or stools. As a complement to the array of high-throughput omics approaches available, metabonomics offers the advantage of relying on non-invasive or minimally invasive sample collection methods, being fast and reliable, an ...