Several approaches to metabolomics research are available depending on the goal , including untargeted and targeted metabolomics. While untargeted metabolomics involves analyzing metabolites on a global level to understand larger biological questions, targeted metabolomics delves into metabolite subsets and focuses on one or two pathways.
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Untargeted metabolomics or global profiling aims to measure and compare as many metabolites as possible between samples without bias. With advancements in both separations and mass spectrometry technologies resulting in higher sensitivity, high resolution, high throughput and wide dynamic range, untargeted metabolomics can be applied to answer a wealth of biological questions. Our understanding of comprehensive cellular metabolism has increased, for example, in identifying altered metabolic pathways in disease that represent novel drug targets. High resolution accurate mass (HRAM) technologies are best suited for untargeted metabolomics.
Targeted metabolomics approaches are best suited when there’s a focused study on a subset of known compounds or metabolites. Typically, this is also focused on one or more related pathways of interest either from a result of an untargeted study, or from subsets of metabolites identified in literature or observed from clinical studies that causes further investigation of a particular pathway.
Initial targeted screening or profiling is best performed also using HRAM mass spectrometry technologies due to minimal method development, as well as the selectivity and MS/MS confirmation benefits. This initial screening can then be performed using the same system as untargeted metabolomics.
For routine targeted quantitation of well characterized compounds or metabolites, triple quadrupole MS methods are highly sensitive and robust, offering absolute quantitation of metabolites.
Lipidomics, a subset of metabolomics is also a fast growing area. Learn more about each approach and the components that make up each workflow.