Foundation Funded Research, Published in Nature, Finds Biomarker for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

microIn recent years, microbiome research has started to shift its focus from the microbes themselves to the molecules they produce. After all, it’s these molecules that directly interact with human cells to influence a person’s health. But trying to identify which molecules are being made by a person’s microbiome is quite challenging. A typical metabolomics study can only characterize about 10% of the molecular data from a human microbiome sample.


In a new study published on December 5, 2023 in Nature, microbiome experts at University of California San Diego debut a new approach they call “reverse metabolomics.” The technique combines organic synthesis, data science and mass spectrometry to better understand what molecules are being secreted by the microbiome and how they affect human health.


The authors say the molecules they’ve described could one day inspire new therapeutics for treating IBD. For example, patients might be treated with pills containing live microbes that secrete specific molecules, or drugs that inhibit the enzymes these disease-associated molecules interact with. 


“This is a remarkable achievement derived from our precision nutrition initiative, in which Dr. Dorrestein previously demonstrated that reverse metabolomics could identify food metabolites associated with disease severity in patients with IBD,” said Andrés Hurtado-Lorenzo, PhD, senior vice president of Translational Research & IBD Ventures at the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. “Now, this groundbreaking work has further progressed to discovering new metabolites that hold potential for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications in IBD.” 


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