Sample vials

Metabolomics

Jennifer Kirwan

Profile

Metabolomics can tell complex stories about the interactions of small molecules – the metabolites – in cells and body fluids. The approach thus allows researchers to investigate diseases, their causes, and potential treatments in a new and in-depth manner.

During the life of an organism, a myriad of small molecules arise as intermediates and products of metabolism. Metabolomics – the systematic study of these metabolites – aims at elucidating the chemical fingerprints that specific cellular states and processes leave behind, thus enabling a complex and in-depth understanding of health and disease.

Picturing cellular – and subcellular – metabolism

Current challenges in the field of metabolomics include the need for better and more rapid identification of metabolites that are as yet unknown. In addition, there is increasing interest in metabolomics analyses of single cells or even specialized subunits of the cell (organelles), such as mitochondria. These developments entail the need for new and refined approaches and protocols. In the longer term, we hope to offer single-cell metabolic analyses for biomedical research. Moving forward, we are open for all kinds of collaboration with other scientific groups.

Our tools

  • Gas chromatography mass spectrometry
  • Liquid chromatography mass spectrometry
  • Direct infusion mass spectrometry
  • Liquid extraction surface analysis mass spectrometry (LESA-MS)
  • Ultrahigh field asymmetric ion mobility spectrometry (Ultra-FAIMS)

Jennifer Kirwan

In October 2016, Dr. Jennifer Kirwan took over as new head of the BIH Core Facility Metabolomics. She originally trained and practiced as a veterinarian and has been working in the field of mass spectrometry metabolomics for more than ten years now, looking at how metabolomics approaches can add new perspective to research challenges. Dr. Kirwan is particularly interested in how metabolic changes in disease can contribute to understanding on aetiology and contribute to new treatment discovery.

Further information can be found on the BIH Metabolomics website.

Platform Specifications

Metabolomics can be split into untargeted and targeted approaches. Untargeted approaches attempt to measure as many metabolites as possible in a single analysis using an unbiased approach. Targeted methods by contrast focus more specifically on pre-defined compounds and specific techniques may be adopted to maximize their extraction and detection.

Instruments available:

  • Thermo QExactive Hybrid-Quadrupole-Orbitrap
  • Thermo TSQ Quantiva Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer
  • Leco Pegasus HTGL-TOF MS
  • Leco Pegasus 4D GCxGC-TOFMS
  • Agilent 1290 Infinity LC system
  • Agilent 1290 Infinity 2D-LC system

Our platform offers both targeted and untargeted approaches. In theory, targeted approaches can be optimised for any group of metabolites, although our group specializes in the targeted analysis of metabolites of the central carbon metabolism (CCM) using a method developed by the group of Dr Stefan Kempa.

Lipidomics is a specialised branch of metabolomics which specializes in the analysis of lipids. This is a less developed branch but we can assist in the analysis of lipids for groups for whom this is of interest.

Finally, we have recently instituted the ability to use Biocrates P400 kits which can perform analyses of up to 400 key metabolites for a broad brush approach to metabolic systems. This kit is particularly suitable where a broad look of metabolism is of interest to researchers who perhaps want to refine hypotheses.

For more details, please contact Jennifer Kirwan.

Publications