How to Successfully Navigate an Integrated Omics Campaign
Emerging Technology to Realize the Promise of Integrated Omics
Mass spectrometry has provided the technological foundation on which experimental omics has been based. A range of mass spec (MS) technologies and techniques have enabled high-throughput omics analysis at the level of the individual cell, multicellular tissue constructs, and tissues. By integrating the different types of omics data (proteomic, metabolomic, glycomic and genomic) gathered and the multiple layers of information needed to study complex systems, it is possible to pursue a multi-omics approach and – ultimately – acquire a precise picture of living organisms.
MS Analysis and Data Interpretation Yield Unprecedented Information
There is much to be learned from measuring the relative abundance of all kinds of biological molecules. Researchers are hard at work applying that knowledge to the identification of new biomarkers, studying, seeking to understand or aiming to advance to predict:
- Metabolic and regulatory mechanisms
- Disease progression and cancer metastasis
- Diagnostics and personalized medicine
- Drug response & toxicity
- Individualized therapeutic regimens.
All of these popular applications have (at least) one thing in common: they all rely on integrated omics analysis.
Different Approaches – the “Omics du Jour”
Different MS approaches offer unique advantages for various types of omics analyses, and the instrument systems you choose will depend on several variables, including the characteristics of the samples you are analyzing molecules you are measuring (the “omics du jour”), the degree of mass spec resolution and sensitivity you require, what dynamic range the instrument must be capable of, and the data collection and management and computational capabilities of the associated software.
Managing and Interpreting the Explosive Growth of Big Data
The ultra-high resolving power of today’s advanced mass spec systems combined with the quantitative outputs yield vast amounts of highly complex data. This data has the potential to provide unprecedented views into the inner workings of cells and the physiology of whole organisms, but the overwhelming amount of information presents a great challenge. The main hurdle lies in extracting useful, biologically relevant meaning from large, multiple omics datasets.
Today’s Omics – Computational Power Matters.
Advances in statistical methodologies and computational tools are making it possible to work with large, individual omics datasets and find the “needles in the haystack”—the high-value biomarkers that are typically present in very small numbers and are often hidden in a sea of other more-abundant biological compounds.
The new, even greater challenge in this emerging era of integrated omics campaigns is to develop computational methods for analyzing and integrating multi-omics datasets. As researchers rise to meet this challenge, the information generated will add to our knowledge base on fundamental biological processes and how organisms develop and function. Through integrated omics we will be able to advance our understanding of whole systems and living organisms.
What has been your experience using a multi-omics approach to your research?