Metabolomics: a challenge for detecting and monitoring inborn errors of metabolism
Timely newborn screening and genetic profiling are crucial in early recognition and treatment of inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs). A proposed nosology of IEMs has inserted 1,015 well-characterized IEMs causing alterations in specific metabolic pathways. With the increasing expansion of metabolomics in clinical biochemistry and laboratory medicine communities, several research groups have focused their interest on the analysis of metabolites and their interconnections in IEMs. Metabolomics has the potential to extend metabolic information, thus allowing to achieve an accurate diagnosis for the individual patient and to discover novel IEMs. Structural and functional information on 247 metabolites associated with 147 IEMs and 202 metabolic pathways involved in various IEMs have been reported in the human metabolome data base (HMDB). For each metabolic gene, a new computational approach can be developed for predicting a set of metabolites, whose concentration is predicted to change after gene knockout in urine, blood and other biological fluids. Both targeted and untargeted mass spectrometry (MS)-based metabolomic approaches have been used to expand the range of disease-associate metabolites. The quantitative targeted approach, in conjunction with chemometrics, can be considered a basic tool for validating known diagnostic biomarkers in various metabolic disorders. The untargeted approach broadens the identification of new biomarkers in known IEMs and allows pathways analysis. Urine is an ideal biological fluid for metabolomics in neonatology; however, the lack of standardization of preanalytical phase may generate potential interferences in metabolomic studies. The integration of genomic and metabolomic data represents the current challenge for improving diagnosis and prognostication of IEMs. The goals consist in identifying both metabolically active loci and genes relevant to a disease phenotype, which means deriving disease-specific biological insights.