Metabolic variation in autoimmune diseases

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå Universitet

Abstract: The human being and other animals contain immensely complex biochemical processes that govern their function on a cellular level. It is estimated that several thousand small molecules (metabolites) are produced by various biochemical pathways in humans. Pathological processes can introduce perturbations in these biochemical pathways which can lead to changes in the amounts of some metabolites.Developments in analytical chemistry have made it possible measure a large number metabolites in a single blood sample, which gives a metabolic profile. In this thesis I have worked on establishing and understanding metabolic profiles from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and from animal models of the autoimmune diseases diabetes mellitus type 1 (T1D) and RA.Using multivariate statistical methods it is possible to identify differences between metabolic profiles of different groups. As an example we identified differences between patients with RA and healthy volunteers. This can be used to elucidate the biochemical processes that are active in a given pathological condition.Metabolite concentrations are affected by a many other things than the presence or absence of a disease. Both genomic and environmental factors are known to influence metabolic profiles. A main focus of my work has therefore been on finding strategies for ensuring that the results obtained when comparing metabolic profiles were valid and relevant. This strategy has included repetition of experiments and repeated measurement of individuals’ metabolic profiles in order to understand the sources of variation.Finding the most stable and reproducible metabolic effects has allowed us to better understand the biochemical processes seen in the metabolic profiles. This makes it possible to relate the metabolic profile differences to pathological processes and to genes and proteins involved in these.The hope is that metabolic profiling in the future can be an important tool for finding biomarkers useful for disease diagnosis, for identifying new targets for drug design and for mapping functional changes of genomic mutations. This has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of disease pathology and thus improving health care.