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New technique to study the metabolism



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A study published this week in the journal Angewandte Chemie presents a new methodology that uses Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to study cell metabolism.

The technology was developed by scientist Òscar Yanes in the Metabolomics Platform, a facility created by the Univeristat Rovira i Virigili (URV) in Tarragona (Spain) and CIBERDEM, with the collaboration of IRB Barcelona group leader Travis Stracker and former PhD student Suvi Aivio. 

The tool makes it possible to monitor metabolic fluxes more quickly than previous methods. In just 10 minutes it can provide dynamic information about a considerable number of key metabolites. It could be used in the future to augment existing technologies in order to help understand the biology of cancer and metabolic diseases.

Stracker and Yanes strengthened their collaboration in 2015 after Yanes was named Affiliated Member in IRB Barcelona's Molecular Medicine programme. Stracker's lab was investigating the functions of an uncharacterized mitochondrial protein that appeared to alter cancer cell metabolism.

They consulted with Òscar Yanes to perform some analysis to track the use of different carbon sources, glucose and glutamine, to generate important metabolites. "This requires a highly specialized technique that is both expensive and time consuming, but it is also very informative and few facilities around the world are able to do this well", explains Stracker.

Suvi Aivio prepared the samples for analysis that were used to develop the technique. "It provided us with important information for our own study and we will feature it in a future publication", states the IRB Barcelona researcher Travis Stracker.

Maria Vinaixa, first author of the study, and Òscar Yanes, explain that with this methodology “we exploit the full power of NMR in terms of its sensitivity and coverage of the metabolome”, they conclude.

More information:

Link to Angewandte Chemie

Link to full press release by URV (English)

Link to Gaceta Médica (Spanish)

About IRB Barcelona

The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) pursues a society free of disease. To this end, it conducts multidisciplinary research of excellence to cure cancer and other diseases linked to ageing. It establishes technology transfer agreements with the pharmaceutical industry and major hospitals to bring research results closer to society, and organises a range of science outreach activities to engage the public in an open dialogue. IRB Barcelona is an international centre that hosts 400 researchers and more than 30 nationalities. Recognised as a Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence since 2011, IRB Barcelona is a CERCA centre and member of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST).