Healthcare Technology Featured Article

March 04, 2013

International Consortium Creates Recon 2, A 'Google Map' for Human Metabolism

The idea of metabolism, the process by which the human body takes food and breaks it down into its component parts for use as energy – and later conversion into waste – has been something of a mystery in the larger sense for some time now.

Better understanding, however, may well be on the way, as just yesterday, a group of international researchers published a paper in the journal, "Nature Biotechnology," detailing Recon 2, a model by which the practices of human metabolism can be better explained.

Contained within Recon 2 is said to be the ability to identify potential causes for and treatments of several different diseases, like cancer, diabetes and a variety of other disorders – even some that might not ordinarily be connected with metabolic issues, like psychiatric disorders.

While doctors have known for some time that metabolic issues often relate to diseases, many scientists didn't start focusing on metabolic issues in disease until connections were made relating to the Human Genome Project, and several new advances in systems biology started showing the connections themselves.

Recon 2, meanwhile, displays the connection between metabolism and disease by allowing scientists and researchers to track the flow of material throughout the body, from consumption to excretion, drawing from a huge array of previously established data sources to create a single model by which the material can be tracked.

Almost like a street map – indeed, like a Google Map – for metabolic processes.

Recon 2 is already starting to show quite a bit of real-world application, including the means to improve ethanol production by adjusting the performance of the organisms whose processes help create the substance, improving the ability to predict if a bacteria will become drug resistant, or if certain drugs can actually prevent cancers by affecting conditions in the human body, making it resistant to the processes that form cancers.

Meanwhile, Recon 2's predecessor, Recon 1, came about in 2007 and acted as the first ever virtual reconstruction of a human metabolism. Recon 1 featured more than 3,300 known biochemical reactions, over 7,300 different reactions, and the result of over 50 years worth of biochemical research.

Recon 2 steps up the game with another five years worth of study since the release of Recon 1, and has already yielded several exciting new conclusions.

Recon 2, however, isn't the only game in town in terms of using predictive models of metabolism to search for cures, as Orion Bionetworks was recently spotted doing something similar.

Basically, Recon 2 has a lot of potential in terms of identifying and diagnosing certain problems, which in turn may very well change the way we live, eat, work and play by pointing out new ways to approach everyday issues that can improve health just by making some minor, or even some major changes.

The fullest value of Recon 2 will only be truly appreciated with time, but we could be on the verge of some very exciting new prospects and improvements to our daily life.

Edited by Braden Becker

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