Mass-spectrometry-based metabolomics: limitations and recommendations for future progress with particular focus on nutrition research

Metabolomics. 2009 Dec;5(4):435-458. doi: 10.1007/s11306-009-0168-0. Epub 2009 Jun 12.


Mass spectrometry (MS) techniques, because of their sensitivity and selectivity, have become methods of choice to characterize the human metabolome and MS-based metabolomics is increasingly used to characterize the complex metabolic effects of nutrients or foods. However progress is still hampered by many unsolved problems and most notably the lack of well established and standardized methods or procedures, and the difficulties still met in the identification of the metabolites influenced by a given nutritional intervention. The purpose of this paper is to review the main obstacles limiting progress and to make recommendations to overcome them. Propositions are made to improve the mode of collection and preparation of biological samples, the coverage and quality of mass spectrometry analyses, the extraction and exploitation of the raw data, the identification of the metabolites and the biological interpretation of the results.