In Nature, a team from Europe proposes a new way to personalize drug therapy based on a patient's metabolic phenotype. They show that this method can predict damage caused by high-dose paracetamol in rats.
Many biomedical researchers are excited about pharmacogenomics, in which drug treatment is tailored to a patient's genetic profile. But the utility of this method may be limited, partly because it does not take into account how quickly a person reacts to and breaks down the drug, which itself is influenced by genes, diet, gut bacteria, age, disease and other drugs in the body.
Jeremy Nicholson and colleagues propose an alternative approach called 'pharmaco-metabonomics'. They used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to analyse the metabolites in rat urine, and found that certain metabolic signatures can be used to predict the severity of liver damage caused by a toxic dose of paracetamol, perhaps because they indicate how well equipped the body is to protect itself from the drug.
The proof-of-principle experiment suggests that this approach might be used to screen people and decide which drugs they can safely take, and at what doses. It might also find a use predicting people's responses to all kinds of other medical, dietary or physiological challenges.
Jeremy Nicholson (Imperial College London, UK)
(C) Nature press release.
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