A metabolite is a small molecule produced during or taking part in metabolism, and
metabolomics is the study of the unique chemical fingerprints that specific cellular processes
leave behind by measuring the presence and intensity of individual metabolites in a
biological sample. Metabolomic research has applications in a wide variety of fields,
including but not limited to breast cancer research, diabetes treatment, drug development,
environmental sciences, and nutrition. To name just one example, individuals with impaired
glucose tolerance have been shown to have significantly lower values of the three
metabolites glycine, lysophosphatidylcholine (18:2), and acetylcarnitine than those with
ordinary glucose tolerance. These metabolites can then be searched for and measured in order
to help predict Type 2 diabetes in pre-diabetic individuals with impaired glucose tolerance,
meaning that the study of metabolomics may be useful for identifying these patients and
possibly preventing them from contracting the disease altogether (Sattler et al. 2012).
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