Metabolomics Analysis

Metabolomics is the study of metabolites, which are the small molecules produced during the body’s metabolism. Metabolites are produced in normal body functioning and from external factors including what we eat, touch, or breathe. The total number of metabolites in an organism, cell, or tissue is called the metabolome.

We will conduct metabolomics analysis on blood samples of individuals affected by the disaster and of people in comparison communities.

We will use two data sources for this analysis:

  • Newborn blood spots: Hospitals routinely collect blood samples from newborns using a heel prick 12 to 24 hours after birth and report them to the California Genetic Disease Screening Program. We will obtain 2,600 of these blood spots from the affected and control communities from before, during, and after the disaster.
  • Clinical assessments: We will collect blood samples from 600 study participants during clinical assessments.

We will conduct two different studies of blood samples:

  • Liquid chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry: We will measure the changes in the metabolome in the blood samples and look for metabolic changes in residents of affected and control communities. We will also compare the results in the affected communities to other reference populations.

  • Gas chromatography high-resolution mass spectrometry: We will try to detect environmental chemical exposures for a broad range of chemicals that can be detected in blood samples (refer to Supplementary Data 4 and Supplementary Data 5). The level of environmental chemical exposures detected vary depending on the population studied. However, one challenge of this analysis is that some volatile chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, hexane, hydrogen sulfide, and formaldehyde, may be lost during storage of dried blood spots.