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Ms Leezil Peneder
Department Administrator


Tel: +27-31-240 2557
Fax: +27-31-240 2576
E-Mail: peneder@ukzn.ac.za
Metabolomics

Metabolomics

Like all ‘omics’ sciences, which entails studying and capturing information from a living system treated as a whole, metabolomics specifically focuses on the metabolites. Metabolites are molecules of the body which are in constant flux and are regulated by enzymes, signalling molecules etc. Some of these fluxes change rapidly during the course of a day and others, slowly over a person’s life time or when a person falls ill. Differences in the human metabolome are influenced by our genetic make-up, our pathophysiological state and to a lesser degree our external environment.

In the post-genomic era, with the human genome complete, we can determine to some degree the significance of individual genes that predisposes one to a particular disease or effectivity of a particular drug. However the predictability remains very poor, and this is because the functioning of genes relies on cellular processes such as concentrations of proteins and metabolites. So in order to have a more complete picture to the factors influencing a person’s genotype-phenotype, we need to have a more complete picture of cellular-processes as a whole. This requires the integration of the “omics’ sciences. Genomics and proteomics are well developed sciences, for instance the human genome is now fully sequenced and freely available, whereas the human metabolome is not at all well characterised and is an important aspect to linking genotype and physiology.

Human metabolomics involves measuring biological fluids that consist of a mixture of metabolites of different concentrations, and this makes-up the over all biochemical profile. The molecules are measured in an unbiased manner and once the profile is obtained it is characterised and compared to other profiles. In doing so, one can then determine the physiological state of a person. Different biofluids, such as serum, urine, cerebrospinal fluid to name a few have been used successfully to identify different pathophysiological states.

In this group we are measuring and comparing profiles of biofluids to identify potential biomarkers of patients with infectious diseases as well as other metabolic diseases. We apply both nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and Mass spectra (MS) based metabolomics to measure the biochemical samples. We are also focused on more detailed mechanistic studies – measuring the metabolic profile of tissue cultures to gain a better understanding of the diseases and effects of drugs at a cellular level.

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