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​​​​​​Metabolomic Biomarker Discovery

Sapient Bioanalytics

Sapient Bioanalytics provides high throughput mass spectrometry measurements and statistical analysis of diverse metabolites (“metabolomics”) in human biosamples, including plasma / serum, finger stick blood, dried blood spots, breast milk, urine and stool. Most recently, these technologies have undergone transformation, through development of rapid liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry (rLC-MS) discovery systems.

Why discovery metabolomics?
Sapient Bioanalytics’ innovative hardware (termed rapid liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry [rLC-MS]) and software workflows scale current analytical technologies by ~100x, enabling rapid analysis and statistical handling of large human biosample collections. Sapient Bioanalytics has the ability and capacity to handle up to 10,000s of samples at a time. From an array of biosamples, including plasma / serum, finger stick blood, dried blood spots, breast milk, urine and stool, our rLC-MS approaches capture and measure ~5000 known and unknown metabolites spanning chemical classes - from polar amino acids to hydrophobic neutral lipids. Using minimal sample collections (including fingerstick blood), high-dimensional chemical analyses of thousands of metabolites may be readily performed.

What can we learn from discovery metabolomics?
Untargeted mass spectrometry (MS) based metabolic profiling allows for the measurement of thousands of distinct small molecule metabolites in human biosamples. Collectively these measures provide unparalleled insights into endogenous biochemical factors as well as exposure related factors, including those that originate from diet, microbiome, toxicants, and medications, among thousands of additional exposures, that have the potential to influence human health and disease. Sapient Bioanalytics aims to enable chemical and biomarker discovery, with a goal of enabling scientific discovery and advancing human health.

Example Study:
To determine whether rLC-MS based metabolomics may provide for greater understanding of pregnancy related maternal and fetal outcomes, we applied rLC-MS to the study of biosamples collected from the Ottawa and Kingston (OaK) Birth Cohort, a prospective cohort of 8,085 pregnant women in Ottawa, ON and Kingston, ON, Canada, with enrollment from 2002 to 2009.

Metabolite predictors of pregnancy related outcomes. Dozens of circulating early pregnancy metabolites were found to associate with development of maternal pre-eclampsia late in pregnancy. These metabolites include those originating from dietary sources, the microbiome and environmental toxicants, providing new insights into the biological origins of pregnancy related disease. A metabolite risk score derived from these circulating metabolites allows for early prediction of pregnancy related disease. From this study, n=7241 maternal plasma samples at 12-20 weeks gestation were obtained, along with extensive data on maternal and infant demographics, maternal health, obstetrical history, pregnancy outcomes, and fetal outcomes.

Sapient Bioanalytics – Frequently Asked Questions 

1.) What types of samples are you able to analyze?

  • Discovery metabolomics is capable of analyzing a wide range of both fluid and solid samples including plasma, serum, urine, breast milk, dried blood spots and tissue. Discovery metabolomics also has point of care Volumetric Absorptive Microsampling devices that may also be analyzed for metabolomics (Neoteryx VAMS) (see Gates Kit product info and instructional video; question 5 below).

​2.) How much sample is required for analysis?

  • For metabolomics analysis, discovery metabolomics requests 200uL of sample. If sample volume is very limiting, we are happy to discuss.For samples collected in the field where refrigeration storage is not feasible, we recommend use of the Neoteryx Mitra VAMS device, which will hold a preset volume (10uL). The collected VAMS samples can be stored at room temperature in the sealed bag with desiccant for up to 7 days and then placed into a freezer. 

3.) Do you prefer serum or plasma? For plasma, what anticoagulants are OK?

  • Both serum and plasma are compatible with discovery metabolomics and all anticoagulants are compatible, with the exception of citrate.

4.) How should samples be prepared before submission?

  • No preparation is required. Samples should be frozen and transferred on dry ice to Sapient Bioanalytics for analysis. Prior to shipment of samples we will discuss with the investigators what types of tubes the samples should be sent in.
  • ​Sample tubes should be clearly labeled with tube labels matching the sample IDs on the required Sample Intake Form (to be provided with the Statement of Work). Please note that marker can smudge off during transfer of samples, so we recommend use of stickers or barcoding.

5.) What if I am interested in the Neoteryx VAMS microsampling kit?

6.) What types of metabolites can you measure?

  • Discovery metabolomics measures 1000s of metabolites in human biosamples. These include well known metabolites such as amino acids, central carbon metabolites and energy molecules, lipids, as well as 1000s of unknown molecules. These metabolites can come from a variety of origins, including endogenous sources, microbial sources, from diet, drugs, toxicants and many other yet unidentified sources.

7.) How do we arrange shipping?

  • Sapient Bioanalytics will host a teleconference with the primary investigator team to discuss logistical and shipping details. In most cases, Sapient Bioanalytics will pay for the cost of shipping.

8.) What will the data look like? In what format will I receive the data?

  • Sapient will return all data, including raw mass spectral files, processed data files and the final dataset as an excel document to the primary investigator team.
  • You can view an example of a shortened final dataset file here.

9.) How many metabolites can be identified within the dataset?

  • The vast majority of metabolites in human blood, milk or urine are unknowns that are yet to be chemically identified.
  • Using an in-house chemical library, discovery metabolomics can typically assign putative ID’s to several hundred metabolites across various chemical classes including polar metabolites, polar bioactive lipids and structural lipids.

10.) Where do I start with interpreting the data?

  • ​We are here to enable you to get the most out of your data. During initial meetings and when drafting the Statement of Work, we will discuss your statistical and analytical needs.


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