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Metabolomics: Understanding Metabolism in the 21st Century

Discover how metabolomics is revolutionising our understanding of metabolism with this free online course.

23,292 enrolled on this course

A pictorial representation of the effect of drugs, exercise and food on metabolism in man. The image suggests the combined effect of the genome, metabolites and the environment.
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Metabolomics is an emerging field that aims to measure the complement of metabolites (the metabolome) in living organisms. The metabolome represents the downstream effect of an organism’s genome and its interaction with the environment. Metabolomics has a wide application area across the medical and biological sciences. The course provides an introduction to metabolomics, describes the tools and techniques we use to study the metabolome and explains why we want to study it. By the end of the course you will understand how metabolomics can revolutionise our understanding of metabolism.

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  • Week 1

    An Introduction to metabolomics

    • What is Metabolomics?

      In the first few steps we will introduce you to the course and the team of educators.

    • Metabolism is a Network

      During this activity you will look at how metabolism functions as a network and how the biochemicals interact together in a complex system.

    • The Advantages of studying the Metabolome

      There are many reasons why we want to study the metabolome and why metabolomics is such a powerful approach. In this section we will look at the advantages of studying the metabolome.

  • Week 2

    A multi-disciplinary approach to study the metabolome

    • A multi-disciplinary approach to study the metabolome

      In Week 2 of the course we will explore how a multi-disciplinary approach is used to study the metabolome.

    • Hypothesis generating studies

      In the next few steps we will explore the difference between hypothesis generating and hypothesis directed studies.

    • An interdisciplinary approach

      In the next few activities we will show the different applications and educational backgrounds of the researchers working within the metabolomics field.

    • Important considerations in studying the metabolome

      The metabolome is a dynamic and complex system and so there are many challenges to overcome when studying the metabolome. In this section we will outline how we address these challenges.

  • Week 3

    Measuring the metabolome

    • Experimental design and sample preparation

      Experimental design and sample preparation are critical steps in the metabolomics pipeline. In the next few steps we will look at what we need to consider in the design of experiments and the preparation of samples.

    • The application of mass spectrometry in metabolomics

      Mass spectrometry is widely applied in metabolomics, it provides a sensitive and selective approach to quantify the metabolites in biological samples.

    • Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry

      Over the next few activities we will look at the benefits of coupling liquid chromatography to mass spectrometry to measure the metabolome.

  • Week 4

    Data analysis and metabolite identification

    • Introduction to data processing

      In the first few steps of the final week of the course we will describe the steps involved in processing data from the raw instrument files to the production of a data matrix that you can use in the data analysis steps.

    • Introduction to statistics

      There are many approaches that may be applied to analyse the “big” data sets generated in metabolomics experiments. In this section we will introduce you to some of the tools that you can apply to analyse your data.

    • Metabolite identification

      Metabolite identification is one of the big challenges in metabolomics. We will provide an introduction to identifying your metabolites and the tools available to assist you in the process.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the biological relevance of metabolites (the small molecular weight intermediates and products of metabolism) and the metabolome
  • Assess the challenges involved in studying the metabolome
  • Develop an awareness of the analytical techniques and data analysis tools that are applied to study the metabolome
  • Evaluate how the interaction of scientists from different disciplines has driven the development of this field

Who is the course for?

The course is primarily aimed at final year undergraduate science students and research scientists who are interested in learning about the application of metabolomics to understand metabolism. However, metabolomics is a new tool to the scientific community and this course will provide a valuable introduction to scientists at any stage in their careers. It is not essential to have any previous knowledge of the subject area but a reasonable knowledge and understanding of science would be beneficial.

Who will you learn with?

Professor of Metabolomics in the School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, UK. Also the Director of the NERC Metabolomics facility and MRC-funded Phenome Centre Birmingham.

I am a university lecturer with a research group focused on studying metabolism in human health, disease and ageing.

I am the operations manager for the Phenome Centre Birmingham and Birmingham Metabolomics Training Centre at the University of Birmingham.

Computer scientist (or bioinformatician) at the University of Birmingham (UK) who is interested in developing and applying computational tools to derive clear interpretations of metabolomics data.

Who developed the course?

University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is a public research university, consistently listed as a leading UK university and ranked among the top 100 in the world.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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