An increasing interest in cellular metabolism

The links between mitochondrial dysfunction and various diseases and pathological conditions are being increasingly revealed, such that mitochondrial analyses have gained renewed interest from both the academic research and drug discovery labs. This revival of interest in cellular metabolism assays is being aided by new analysis tools based on biomarker assays and proved particularly useful. Innovations in the analysis of cellular bioenergetics are expected to assist the collection of functional data needed to drive transformational change in research and impact drug discovery over the coming years.

New technologies are now increasingly driving the identification and recognition that there are distinct metabolic phenotypes known to be associated with states of cellular activation, growth, stress and disease. Indeed, the ability of cells to switch between mitochondrial respiration and aerobic glycolysis (Warburg metabolism) is associated with disease and is specially a common phenotype of cancerous cells. The metabolic properties of cancer cells have proven to be remarkably different from those of normal cells and disregulated cellular metabolism is linked to drug resistance in cancer therapy.

In addition to cancer, metabolic analysis has enabled new discoveries and opportunities in a number of other fields including immunology, neurodegeneration, obesity/diabetes, toxicity and stem cells.

cell smear
warburg effect

Metabolism analysis: a survey

According to a recent HTStec 2014 survey (Conley, 2014), reporting a list of specific assay types used in cell metabolism research, glycolysis and cell mitochondrial stress test were the most frequently encountered or relevant by survey respondents (56%). They were followed by fatty acid oxidation (47%) and metabolic switch (41%). Least encountered were glycolytic stress test (21%). Survey respondents rated non-radioactive assay format as the most important feature when considering the adoption of a new cell metabolism assay platform. This was closely followed by measurements on living cells in real time – medium throughput (6-96 well) format – and then by ability to make repeat measurements on the same samples. Survey respondents ranked generation of functional data on living cells as the main driver (influence) for considering switching to a new cellular metabolism platform based on a bio-sensing probe, such as Seahorse Bioscience XF Analyzers. This was followed by facilitating access to important metabolic measurements/readouts, allowing more assays to be done in the same amount of time and then more economical means than my current method.