Scientists from Imperial College London and Pfizer have developed a method that could predict individual patient responses to drug treatments.
The authors anticipate that the development will advance biomedical research further towards development of personalised medicines.
Research published in Nature demonstrates the 'pharmaco-metabonomic' approach that uses a combination of advanced chemical analysis and mathematical modelling to predict drug-induced responses in individual patients.
The method is based on analysis of the body's normal metabolic products, metabolites, and metabolite patterns that are characteristic of the individual.
The authors hypothesize that these individual patterns can be used to diagnose diseases, predict an individual's future illnesses, and their responses to treatments.
Not all drugs are effective in all patients and in rare cases adverse drug reactions can occur in susceptible individuals.
To address this, researchers from Imperial College and Pfizer have been exploring new methods for profiling individuals prior to drug therapy.
The approach, if successful, requires the analysis of the metabolite profiles of an individual from a urine, or other biofluid, sample.
The researchers tested their approach by administering paracetamol to rats and measuring how it affected their livers and how it was excreted. Before giving the dose they measured the levels of the natural metabolites in the rats urine.
Metabolites being small molecules produced by normal body functions, they can indicate a body’s drug response.
After creating a pre-dose urinary profile for each rat, the researchers used computer modelling to relate the nature of the pre-dose metabolite profile to the nature of the post-dose response.
Professor Jeremy Nicholson, from Imperial College London, who led the research, says, "This new technique is potentially of huge importance to the future of healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry."
"The 'pharmaco-metabonomic' approach is able to account for genetic as well as many environmental factors, and other important contributors to individual health such as the gut microfloral activity."
"These factors strongly influence how an individual absorbs and processes a drug and also influence their individual metabolism, making this new approach the first step towards the development of more personalised healthcare for large numbers of patients."
The discovery of this technology for predicting responses to drugs, which is not limited to individual genetic differences, will hopefully be a key component in the pharmaceutical industry's aim to understand how patients might benefit from more individualised therapies.
The method is expected to be synergistic with existing pharmacogenomic approaches. The methodology is in early stage of development and will be studied in humans to evaluate its possible clinical application.