Professor Westerhoff in study that maps human metabolism in health and disease

An international consortium of system biologists, including professor Hans Westerhoff, has produced an biochemical map of mankind. This map will support detection of metabolic diseases and design of targeted therapies for diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer. The study was published on 3 March in Nature Biotechnology.

03/04/2013 | 5:44 PM

Hans WesterhoffThe biochemical map provides the best model yet to explain why individuals react differently to environmental factors such as diet or medication. It is the second important stage of understanding of the human genome. Sequencing of the human genome provided scientists with biological parts. This study explains how these parts operate within different individuals.

The presented framework will lead to a better understanding of how an individual’s lifestyle, such as diet, or a particular drug they may require, is likely to affect them according to their specific genetic characteristics. The model takes an important step closer to what is called ‘personalised medicine’, where treatments are tailored according to the patient’s genetic information.

The research consortium, which involved scientists from Manchester, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Reykjavik, San Diego, Berlin, Amsterdam and others, mapped 65 different human cell types and half of the 2.600 enzymes that are known drug targets in order to produce the network model. By converting biological knowledge into a mathematical model format, the consortium provides a freely accessible tool that will offer an in-depth understanding of human metabolism and its key role in many major human diseases.