Pathologic metabolism: An exploratory study of the plasma metabolome of critical injury

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Severe trauma is associated with massive alterations in metabolism. Thus far, investigations have relied on traditional bioanalytic approaches including calorimetry or nuclear magnetic resonance. However, recent strides in mass spectrometry (MS)–based metabolomics present enhanced analytic opportunities to characterize a wide range of metabolites in the critical care setting.


MS-based metabolomics analyses were performed on plasma samples from severely injured patients’ trauma activation field blood and plasma samples obtained during emergency department thoracotomy. These were compared against the metabolic profiles of healthy controls.


Few significant alterations were observed between trauma activation field blood and emergency department thoracotomy patients. In contrast, we identified trauma-dependent metabolic signatures, which support a state of hypercatabolism, driven by sugar consumption, lipolysis and fatty acid use, accumulation of ketone bodies, proteolysis and nucleoside breakdown, which provides carbon and nitrogen sources to compensate for trauma-induced energy consumption and negative nitrogen balance. Unexpectedly, metabolites of bacterial origin (including tricarballylate and citramalate) were detected in plasma from trauma patients.


In the future, the correlation between metabolomics adaptation and recovery outcomes could be studied by MS-based approaches, and this work can provide a method for assessing the efficacy of alternative resuscitation strategies.

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