A group of researchers, headed by a University of Alberta professor, has uncovered the ingredients of the human body.
Researchers at the U of A announced the completion of the first draft of the human metabolome, the chemical equivalent of the human genome.
"Just as the human genome consists of all the genes in our cells, the metabolome consists of the chemicals - or metabolites - that can be found in our bodies. That includes things like amino acids, sugars, fats and cholesterol," said project leader Dr. David Wishart, professor of Computing Science and Biological Sciences at the U of A and senior research officer at the National Institute for Nanotechnology.
"If we truly want to understand our bodies, we need to know what they're made of. Just like a chef needs to know what, and how much of each ingredient he needs to bake a cake, physician need to know how much of which ingredients are in our bodies, to know whether we're healthy or sick," he continued.
"Each of us represents a unique recipe, a recipe determined by our genes, our health status and our environment.”
Scientists have catalogued and characterized 2,500 metabolites that serve as the bricks and mortar of the human body, as well as approximately 1,500 drugs and 3,500 chemicals found in the food we eat.
Wishart believes that the Human Metabolome Project (HMP), which began in Canada in 2004, will have a more immediate impact on medicine and medical practices than the Human Genome Project.
This $7.5-million project funded by Genome Canada through Genome Alberta, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Machine Learning, and the U of A will have far-reaching benefits to patient care.
By measuring or acquiring chemical, biological and disease association data on all known human metabolites, the HMP Consortium, which consists of some 50 scientists based at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, has spent the past two-and-a-half years compiling the remaining 95 per cent of all known metabolites in the human metabolome.
Detailed information about each of the 2,500 metabolites identified so far can be found on the Human Metabolome Database (HMDB).