Metabolomics – a novel window into inflammatory disease

Inflammation is an important component of normal responses to infection and injury. However, chronic activation of the immune system, due to aberrant responses to normal stimuli, can lead to the establishment of a persistent inflammatory state. Such inflammatory conditions are often debilitating, and are associated with a number of important co-morbidities including cardiovascular disease. Resting non-proliferative tissues have distinctive metabolic activities and requirements, which differ considerably from those in infiltrating immune cells, which are undergoing proliferation and differentiation. Immune responses in tissues may therefore be modulated by the relative abundance of substrates in the inflamed site. In turn immune cell activity can feed back and affect metabolic behaviour of the tissues, as most clearly demonstrated in cachexia - the loss of cellular mass driven by tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) a key mediator of the inflammatory response. Here we discuss the potential for metabolomic analysis to clarify the interactions between inflammation and metabolic changes underlying many diseases. We suggest that an increased understanding of the interaction between inflammation and cellular metabolism, energy substrate use, tissue breakdown markers, the microbiome and drug metabolites, may provide novel insight into the regulation of inflammatory diseases.

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