Do you know your ‘omes’? For this #OMFScienceWednesday, we look at the ‘omes’ studied in biomedical research, and why we are funding projects to study them in ME / CFS.
The genome refers to all of the DNA in a living thing. The DNA is organized into genes that code for proteins that have specific jobs in the body.
In order to make a new cell, the old cell’s DNA must be copied. That means that each of our cells have the same genes — minus any errors that occur during copying.
Since every person’s genome is unique, we call each different variation of the same gene a ‘variant’. These variants lead to different biological traits. For example, some of them can increase an individual’s risk for developing some kinds of diseases. Some studies have identified variants that may increase risk for developing ME / CFS.
The transcriptome refers to all of the RNA produced or ‘expressed’ by genes in the genome. RNA is a molecule can act as a messenger, carrying the information encoded in DNA and leading to the production of proteins. Depending on the cell and tissue type, the RNA will produce different proteins from the DNA.
There are some illnesses in which the genome may not show any defects, but the transcription process — converting the information held in DNA to that held in RNA — may have errors. As a result, the cell can make too much or too little of a protein that has an important job, potentially leading to disease or dysfunction.
Determining the type and amount of RNA, which can be done through advanced sequencing technologies, can tell us a lot about how the genome is (or is not) being transcribed properly to RNA.
The proteome refers to all of the proteins produced from RNA in our cells. Proteins are the building blocks of cells, and have many different functions. Some work as gates to let molecules into and out of the cell; others are enzymes that carry out important biochemical reactions, such as burning glucose to make energy available to cells.
Like RNA, protein content and levels can vary widely across cells and tissues. Since proteins are responsible for many biological functions, the proteome can tell us more about what jobs the cells can — or cannot — perform.
The metabolome refers to all of the small molecules known as metabolites. Metabolites are molecules produced by cellular processes that break down and use nutrients. Metabolomics, the study of the metabolome, can give us a snapshot of our body’s metabolism.
The metabolome is often measured in bodily fluids like blood, plasma or urine. Blood and plasma carry nutrients to cells and carry cellular waste away. Therefore, when we measure metabolites in the blood, we are measuring two things: primary nutrients and waste products.
However, there are many different steps between a cell taking in a primary nutrient and that nutrient becoming waste. New technologies are enabling scientists to measure the metabolome of living cells in real-time, meaning they can examine the metabolism of the cell as it works.
Several ME / CFS studies have found differences between patient and healthy metabolomes, including Dr Naviaux’s metabolomics study.
The microbiome refers to all of the microorganisms found in a biological sample. Did you know that there are more microbes present in your body than your own cells? These millions of microbes help us with metabolism, immune function, and even mood. Some studies have found alterations in the gut microbiome of ME / CFS patients.
Because every ‘ome’ is a distinct layer of molecular information about a person’s biological function, we can learn a lot about disease by studying all of them together. Integrating these layers of information can help us understand why some of the ‘omes’ vary between patients and healthy controls – for example, which DNA variants may lead to the metabolic alterations found in ME / CFS, perhaps by altering levels of the proteins that produce those metabolites. It has only recently become technologically feasible to measure all of these ‘omes.’ The scientific teams we are funding are hopeful that this ‘multi-omics’ approach will give us a more comprehensive understanding of the complex molecular processes that actually cause ME / CFS, leading to targeted treatments and, one day, a cure.
Read more about how multi-omics approaches are being used at the ME / CFS Collaborative Research Center at Stanford: /2017/12/13/dr-mike-snyder/