LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 26, 2020) – The National Science Foundation recently awarded a three-year, $1,163,869 grant to the University of Kentucky to develop new state-of-the-art metabolomics data analysis tools that will derive new data, knowledge and interpretation from the active metabolic state of organisms and ecosystems with broad biological and biomedical applications.

This research effort is being led by Hunter N.B. Moseley, associate professor in UK’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, who directs a bioinformatics and systems biology laboratory housed in the UK Markey Cancer Center. His lab specializes in metabolomics data analysis and its integration with other major omics datasets including epigenomics, genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics.

Metabolism is the combination of chemical processes associated with organisms. Comprehensive molecular characterization of metabolism – that is, detecting, identifying and measuring the amounts of metabolites which include feed molecules, intermediates and product molecules of metabolism – can provide the most information-rich phenotypic description of the active state of an organism or an ecosystem.

In particular, new high-end analytical instrumentation applied to experiments that enrich metabolites with stable isotopes (non-radioactive types of atoms like carbon-13) can generate detailed sub-molecular features representing isotopic flux through cellular and systemic metabolism for thousands of metabolites extracted from cells, tissue, biofluids and environmental samples.

The challenge, Moseley says, is in analyzing this complex data to derive new biological knowledge and in making this data and knowledge available in a highly reusable format in public scientific repositories.

“Data analysis methods for these state-of-the-art technologies are lacking,” Moseley said. “Our project will address this technical gap by developing new data analysis tools that enable effective analysis, integration, interpretation and public deposition of large metabolomics analytical datasets collected from new high-end instruments.” 

This project will also provide research exposure and training for high school students, undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. For more information on these research training opportunities, contact Hunter Moseley directly at hunter.moseley@uky.edu.

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