The future role of metabolomics in dairy science
Metabolomics is an emerging field employed to investigate chemical fingerprints left behind by biological and pathological processes. Although research in this discipline far predates its modern name, metabolomics studies are now conducted in a more global, non-targeted manner because of technological advancements. Metabolites in tissues and biofluids are identified using chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry platforms. Metabolites can then be identified by matching their unique masses and fragmentation patterns with standards in metabolome databases. Changes in metabolite fingerprints can differentiate between healthy cows and those with subacute diseases. For example, the metabolites in rumen fluid and milk can be used to gain insight into the mechanisms behind subacute diseases such as acidosis, ketosis, and mastitis. By examining these global changes in metabolite expression, researchers can investigate perturbations to biochemical pathways and eventually use these novel biomarkers to develop metabolite monitoring systems. An increasing number of metabolomics studies are being conducted to better understand the health-disease continuum in humans and model organisms. However, the potential for this tool in dairy science research remains largely unrealized as endogenous and exogenous metabolites continue to be characterized. Recent investigations published in the Journal of Dairy Science demonstrate the potential for metabolomics to help increase feed efficiency and reduce production losses in the dairy industry. In the future, metabolomics will be influential in revealing the complex mechanisms behind costly subacute metabolic disorders and pathogen-induced diseases in dairy cattle.
Keywords: metabolomics, mass spectrometry, subacute disease.