Jules Griffin, Metabolomics group at University of Cambridge, Biochemistry Department and head of Lipid Profiling and Signalling at MRC Human Nutrition Research.
Since the completion of the sequencing of the human genome, the main goals of functional genomics have been to determine the function of the products of newly identified genes, as well as to determine those that might be therapeutically targeted. To date functional genomic strategies have largely centred on gene expression studies (transcriptomics) or protein profiles (proteomics). Metabolic activity can also be quantified, as various analytical tools have been developed to measure concentrations of low molecular weight metabolites. This is a particularly challenging task as low molecular weight metabolites represent a diverse range of chemicals. Perhaps the best description of this approach was offered by Steve Oliver of University of Cambridge, who used the term ‘metabolomics’ to describe “the complete set of metabolites/low molecular weight intermediates, which are context dependent, varying according to the physiology, developmental or pathological state of the cell, tissue, organ or organism”.
To profile metabolites in cells, tissue or biofluids we use a range of analytical techniques. High resolution 1H NMR spectroscopy is ideal for examining urine, intact tissues and even tissues in vivo. However, its low sensitivity limits the number of metabolites that can be detected and so to compliment this tool we also use a range of mass spectrometry based approaches, particularly for detecting lipids.
The Griffin group/Lipid Profiling and Signalling is split between two sites in Cambridge. At the department of Biochemistry we specialise in measuring aqueous metabolites using high resolution NMR spectroscopy (a Bruker 500 MHz NMR spectrometer), gas chromatography mass spectrometry (two Thermo DSQIIs and a Thermo Trace GC) and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (a Waters QToF Xevo and Quattro Premiere triple quadrupole). MRC HNR houses the Cambridge Lipidomics Biomarker Research Initiative (CLBRI), dedicated to the measurement of complex lipid mixtures using LC-MS and direct infusion mass spectrometry. This mulit-million pound initiative boasts two Thermo Exactive Orbitraps, a Thermo Elite Orbitrap, a Thermo MALDI Orbitrap for tissue imaging, an AB Sciex QTRAP 5500, an AB Sciex QTRAP 4000 and a Shimadzu IT-TOF. In addition we have wide experience in processing metabolomic and lipidomic datasets and cross correlating these datasets with other omic platforms.