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West Coast Metabolomics Center Opens with NIH Grant

by jiopark — last modified Jan 22, 2015 01:00 PM
With a $9.3 million startup grant from the National Institutes of Health, UC Davis has opened the West Coast Metabolomics Center, a high-tech consortium of research laboratories that will help scientists better understand and develop more effective treatments for complex diseases like diabetes, atherosclerosis and cancer.

Dr. Oliver Fiehn, the director of the Davis center and a professor of molecular and cellular biology explains that the National Institutes of Health “recognizes metabolism as a very important part of human physiology and disease processes.” UC Davis was one of three sites chosen nationally during the competitive grant process. The West Coast Metabolomics Center will support metabolomics researchers at UC Davis who examine the biochemical changes that take place in an organism’s cells during metabolism.

Dr. Fiehn explains, “When you analyze metabolism, you can tell the state of the body at the onset and during the progression of diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer,” and that the new Metabolomics Center “builds on the expertise of many analytical biochemists on campus. Here in Davis, we especially recognize the intimate relationship and direct dependence of human health to the food we eat. We will add more capacity and new capabilities to support research and help launch new initiatives in this area."

The Center at UC Davis will use more than 30 mass spectrometers to target thousands of different molecules produced in cells, allowing researchers to look at changes taking place at specific times under specific environmental conditions.

One of those researchers is Dr. Bruce German, a UC Davis pioneer in lipid metabolism. “This new Center shows the effects of the University’s long-term investments into biochemistry and genomics,” he said. “It also nicely integrates with the emphasis in personalized nutrition in our Food for Health Institute.”

Individualized medicine is a promising aspect of metabolomics research that creates individualized treatments for people with certain diseases, or assists in determining the best available treatment for a patient. “With complex diseases, metabolomics is a way to monitor therapies,” Fiehn said. “Metabolism responds first, before a treatment can alleviate symptoms. When there are multiple treatment options available, it would be nice to know before treatment begins which would be most effective for a patient.”

The new center will help researchers throughout the west with annual pilot and feasibility studies, and will also provide courses, statistics and bioinformatics services, and perform metabolomic analyses on a fee-for-service basis. The center is designed to be self-sustaining within five years.

The West Coast Metabolomics Center received instrumentation support by mass spectrometry companies Agilent and Leco. The lab, located within the UC Davis Genome Center, is currently being remodeled to accommodate its new equipment. It will celebrate its grand opening October 8 with a mini-symposium featuring UC Davis and regional scientists and corporate supporters.

Read the UC Davis News press release.

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