In what is so far the largest investigation of its kind, researchers have uncovered a wide range of new insights about common diseases and how they are affected by differences between two persons' genes. The results from this study could lead to highly targeted, individualized therapies. Led by researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar and published in the September 1, 2011 issue of Nature, the study provides details on the genetics behind many diseases, including cardiovascular and kidney disorders, diabetes, cancer, gout, thrombosis, and Crohn's disease, and elucidates the role that individual differences in metabolism play in these disorders. Disturbances in metabolism are at the root of a variety of human afflictions and complex diseases. Although many of the genes that contribute to these conditions have been identified since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, it is still not known how metabolic disorders related to these genetic aberrations disrupt cellular processes. One hundred years ago, Dr. Archibald Garrod, one of the fathers of modern biochemistry, realized that inborn errors in human metabolism are "merely extreme examples of variations of chemical behavior which are probably everywhere present in minor degrees" and that this "chemical individuality [confers] predisposition to and immunities from the various mishaps which are spoken of as diseases." Ever since, identification of the genetic basis of human chemical individuality has been elusive. Now researchers have addressed this challenge by using a new technology, called metabolomics. They measured the levels of more than 250 biochemical compounds in over 60 metabolic pathways, including lipids, sugars, vitamins, amino acids and others in blood from over 2,800 individuals.
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