Department of Metabolomics
Tel +49 341 235-1264
Fax +49 341 235-1786
04318 Leipzig, Germany
Humans are constantly exposed to environmental factors, some of which, for example pollutants, have a harmful effect on human health. When harmful substances enter the body, a metabolic process often takes place, i.e. biochemical conversion by enzymes. To understand the impact of chemicals, researchers need to identify not only the original substances, but also their metabolites and the reactions to the metabolism.
In order to gain a better understanding of the processes involved, scientists from the Department of Metabolomics conduct epidemiological studies to identify chemicals - especially volatile organic chemicals found indoors - and metabolites of harmful substances in blood serum and urine samples. These are used as exposure markers.
The way cells react to environmental pollutants is controlled by signalling pathways, which, alongside changes at transcriptome and protein level, give a particularly sensitive measurement of cellular metabolism. The primary method used by the researchers from the Department of Metabolomics is mass spectrometry, which is an effective method of measuring the metabolome (the complete set of all metabolites). As well as identifying the individual metabolites, the researchers measure the levels of metabolites present. The aim of the research is to reach a more comprehensive understanding, on a systems biology level, of molecular reactions of in-vitro systems. To achieve this, researchers combine the metabolome measurements with gene and protein expression data and produce models based on the data. Using in-vitro experiments on the effects of one harmful substance, the models can help make predictions about the impact of other harmful substances.