Metabolomics is the systematic quantification and characterisation of the complement of small molecules involved in primary and intermediary metabolism. The metabolome is the downstream product of gene regulation and expression but is also influenced by other factors including diet, exercise and environment. Thus the metabolome offers a unique insight into the phenotype, providing a measure of both genetic and environmental influences and has the potential to provide detailed information on disease status and progression in a setting of personalised medicine.
Dyslipidaemia, reflecting altered lipid metabolism, is characteristic of many chronic diseases including the clinical spectrum from obesity through metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Thus lipidomics, a subdiscipline of metabolomics, offers an attractive option to address the growing need for risk assessment, early diagnosis and monitoring in these increasingly prevalent diseases. However, new approaches will be required to deal with the increasing numbers of analytes that can be measured with metabolomic analyses.
Current strategies for development of lipidomic screening programs will be discussed with specific reference to our work in the area of coronary artery disease and the differentiation of stable and unstable atherosclerotic plaque.