Integrated Omics: Tools, Advances, and Future Approaches

J Mol Endocrinol. 2018 Jul 13:JME-18-0055. doi: 10.1530/JME-18-0055. Online ahead of print.


With the rapid adoption of high-throughput omic approaches to analyze biological samples such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, each analysis can generate tera- to peta-byte sized data files on a daily basis. These data file sizes, together with differences in nomenclature among these data types, make the integration of these multi-dimensional omics data into biologically meaningful context challenging. Variously named as integrated omics, multi-omics, poly-omics, trans-omics, pan-omics, or shortened to just 'omics', the challenges include differences in data cleaning, normalization, biomolecule identification, data dimensionality reduction, biological contextualization, statistical validation, data storage and handling, sharing, and data archiving. The ultimate goal is towards the holistic realization of a 'systems biology' understanding of the biological question in hand. Commonly used approaches in these efforts are currently limited by the 3 i's - integration, interpretation, and insights. Post integration, these very large datasets aim to yield unprecedented views of cellular systems at exquisite resolution for transformative insights into processes, events, and diseases through various computational and informatics frameworks. With the continued reduction in costs and processing time for sample analyses, and increasing types of omics datasets generated such as glycomics, lipidomics, microbiomics, and phenomics, an increasing number of scientists in this interdisciplinary domain of bioinformatics face these challenges. We discuss recent approaches, existing tools, and potential caveats in the integration of omics datasets for development of standardized analytical pipelines that could be adopted by the global omics research community.