Talking Techniques | Greg Michelotti on metabolomics, precision medicine and frailty biomarkers

BioTechniques Digital Editors Abigail Sawyer and Tristan Free talk to Greg Michelotti of Metabolon (NC, USA) about metabolomics, its potential applications in precision medicine and the new $4 million research collaboration with the Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging (CLSA) and other Canadian research groups to identify biomarkers for frailty.

Parminder Raina, a professor in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact at McMaster University (Canada), lead principal investigator of the CLSA and scientific director of McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA), answers some additional questions on frailty and the CLSA collaboration.

Despite frailty being so closely associated with aging, an area with increasing scientific focus as life expectancies have continued to rise over the last few decades, it seems like there hasn’t been a huge amount of research into frailty in its own right, instead of in combination with therapies or diseases, can you explain why this is the case?

“I think one thing to keep in mind is that just saying someone is old doesn’t automatically mean that they are frail. It is an issue of resilience as people age. There are subpopulations that do lose resilience and therefore feel frail. Frailty actually is a measure to say how heterogenous the older population are– some people are very resilient; some people are not.

“The science of longevity is new. People are just beginning to focus on what happens when people live longer, and questions of whether people are living in good health versus bad health have started to emerge in the last 10 to 15 years. Prior to that, the general focus of aging research, per se, was on specific diseases. But with studies like CLSA that’s what we are trying to change – to understand why some people age in a healthy fashion and others don’t.”

How will this project differ from other projects such as the FRAILomic initiative or will it work in collaboration with them?    

“The CLSA differs in the way that we are not just looking at the underlying biological markers of aging, which is the focus of the FRAILOMIC initiative. We are trying to understand healthy aging, or trajectories of aging and related frailty issues, from biological, social, psychological and environmental perspectives. So, it’s that big picture that makes CLSA different from FRAILomic and other projects. However, we are working with many of these studies globally to look at these types of questions in a more comprehensive way.”

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