“Metabolic Profiling Detects Early Effects of Environmental and Lifestyle Exposure to Cadmium in a Human Population” JK Ellis, TJ Athersuch, LDK Thomas, F Teichert, M Pérez-Trujillo, C Svendsen, D J. Spurgeon, R Singh, L Järup, JG Bundy and HC Keun. BMC Medicine, February 2012. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7015-10-61
The ‘exposome’ represents the accumulation of all environmental exposures across a lifetime. Top-down strategies are required to assess something this comprehensive, and could transform our understanding of how environmental factors affect human health. Metabolic profiling (metabonomics / metabolomics) defines an individual’s metabolic phenotype, which is influenced by genotype, diet, lifestyle, health and xenobiotic exposure, and could also reveal intermediate biomarkers for disease risk that reflect adaptive response to exposure. We investigated changes in metabolism in volunteers living near a point source of environmental pollution: a closed zinc smelter with associated elevated levels of environmental cadmium. High-resolution 1H NMR spectroscopy (metabonomics) was used to acquire urinary metabolic profiles from 178 human volunteers.
The study showed evidence that an NMR-based metabolic profiling study in an uncontrolled human population is capable of identifying intermediate biomarkers of response to toxicants at true environmental concentrations, paving the way for exposome research.