Metabolomics workgroup

Metabolomics is the qualitative and quantitative analysis of the human body's metabolism's low-molecular weight intermediates and end products to characterise the conditions/diseases of an organism caused by metabolic changes and to find new biomarkers for early disease detection, monitoring and description over the course of treatment. The metabolomic approaches are designated for the analysis of low molecular weight compounds in biofluids and tissues. Metabolomic profiles (MP) provide an instantaneous snapshot of the entire physiology of a body, characterize functional individual differences in healthy population metabolomes and also help to discover novel potential disease-specific biomarkers for the diagnosis and follow-up of different pathological states. The MP are measured on a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometer (LC-MS/MS) or using a proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (1H NMR) approach. Two complementary appro­aches―untargeted and targeted metabolomic analysis―are used to analyse differences in the MP of sample donors by supervised and unsupervised multivariate data mining methods such as principal component analysis, partial least square regression, hierarchical cluster analysis, heatmap displays, etc. The same methods can be used to filter out the individual compounds that cause the changes (e.g. novel markers of diseases) in MP.

Our Metabolomics research group works in the core laboratory which was initiated by prof. M. Zilmer and prof. U. Soomets. The laboratory is currently lead by the prof. U. Soomets and senior research fellow K. Kilk. There are 5 PhD students working in the lab on a daily basis. We have both experience and competence to use high sensitive MS methods to provide investigation starting from untargeted and followed by targeted MP for large numbers of subjects at reasonable cost. Our new scientific workgroup was the first and so far the only in Estonia dedicated to metabolome analyses. The current bio- and translational medical integrated studies of Metabolomics research group are as follows:

  • Metabolomic and proteomic profiling of prodromal stage, first episode of psychosis and chronic schizophrenia (Clinic of Psychiatry, Department of Physiology, Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine, Tartu University)
  • The metabolomical and functional profiling of patients with COPD,  peripheral arterial disease and coronary artery disease including analysis how these diseases are related to each other (Tartu University Heart and Lung Clinics, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Tartu University).
  • The metabolomical characterisation of COPD patients' blood serums and exhaled breath condensates and comparison with healthy individual's metabolomes (Tartu University Lung Clinic, Estonian Biobank).
  • The description of changes in the lung cancer tissue metabolomes compared to healthy tissue metabolomes;
  • The analysis and comparison of psoriasis, vitiligo and melanoma patients' skin biopsies, blood serum and exhaled breath condensate metabolomes to reveal the molecular background behind the development of these diseases (Tartu University Dermatology Clinic, Estonian Biobank)
  • Metabolomic analysis of mitochondrial functions and studies of inherited mitochondrial diseases (Department of Pharmacology, Institute of Biomedicine  and Translational Medicine, Tartu University)
  • Metabolic analysis of different disease mouse models (Kings College, London; Institute of Biotechnology, Manchester). The description of wolframin Wfs1 knockout mice metabolomes in various tissues (Department of Physiology, Institute of Biomedicine  and Translational Medicine, Tartu University).

We will integrate biochemical, functional and structural studies of inflammation, oxidative stress and  systemic biology studies (including metabolomics approach).


Prof. Ursel Soomets, group leader
Prof. Mihkel Zilmer
Senior scientist Kalle Kilk
Senior scientist Jaak Kals
Senior scientist Riina Mahlapuu
Scientist Mats Hansen
Scientist Siiri Altraja 

PhD students:
Rando Porosk
Rando Porosk
Aigar Ottas
Argo Aug
Ingrid Oit-Wiscomb
Kaido Paapstel

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