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Imperial College Using Waters, Bruker Systems in New Metabonomics Lab

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Imperial College London said today that it will use technologies from Waters and Bruker BioSpin in a new lab that will use real-time metabolic profiling to monitor patients during surgery.

Bruker BioSpin and Waters will develop, optimize, and implement mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance technologies for use in studying how metabolic data can be used in the operating room at St. Mary's Hospital.

The new Surgical Metabonomics Laboratory will use analytical chemistry, mass spectrometry, and NMR spectroscopy to measure body chemistry and metabolism and will study how physicians can use this information when planning treatments and in the operating room.

“People respond differently to the physical trauma of surgery, but currently the tools we have to measure how they respond are very limited," said Ara Darzi, chairman of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College, in a statement. "Using NMR, we can simultaneously measure all of the chemicals that the body is producing, and analyze those data to give the surgeon real-time information about the patient’s condition, which will help him make decisions.”

Surgeons will load tissue samples directly into the NMR machine and will receive a readout within 20 minutes that will provide information such as whether tissue is infected or how blood is circulating. They also may be able to use the tools to determine which areas of tissue are cancerous, Imperial said.

"We want to be able to provide a metabolic map of the entire patient journey," Jeremy Nicholson, head of the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial, said in a statement.

"Before surgery, metabonomics could tell the doctor how risky surgery might be for that patient, or how best to prepare him for surgery. After the operation, metabonomics might help the doctor to monitor the patient's recovery and prescribe the most suitable drugs or diet. Ultimately we hope to apply this approach to every area of medicine," Nicholson continued.

Nicholson said that Imperial hopes that "within two to three years, we'll have robust evidence that metabolic profiling can be a really useful tool in surgery."

Compared to metabolomic profiling, "genome sequencing is currently quite slow and expensive, and it can only tell you so much," added James Kinross, a clinical lecturer at Imperial's Division of Surgery.

"Metabonomics takes into account not only what genes somebody has, but also all of the environmental factors that influence their biology, such as their diet, what drugs they're taking, and what bacteria they have in their body," Kinross explained.

Research projects conducted at the lab will be funded by Imperial's Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre and by the UK's National Institute for Health Research.

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