Dr. Michael Schmidt and his colleagues in the Precision Medicine & Pharmacometabolomics Task Group of the Metabolomics Society  have just published a foundational review paper focused on the importance of preanalytical precision in metabolomics research, as a means to increase the ability to detect true biological variance (and minimize experimental variance).  The paper was published in Clinical Chemistry in June 2018.  According the abstract:


The metabolome of any given biological system contains a diverse range of low molecular weight molecules (metabolites), whose abundances can be affected by the timing and method of sample collection, storage, and handling. Thus, it is necessary to consider the requirements for preanalytical processes and biobanking in metabolomics research. Poor practice can create bias and have deleterious effects on the robustness and reproducibility of acquired data.


This review presents both current practice and latest evidence on preanalytical processes and biobanking of samples intended for metabolomics measurement of common biofluids and tissues. It highlights areas requiring more validation and research and provides some evidence-based guidelines on best practices.


Although many researchers and biobanking personnel are familiar with the necessity of standardizing sample collection procedures at the axiomatic level (e.g., fasting status, time of day, “time to freezer,” sample volume), other less obvious factors can also negatively affect the validity of a study, such as vial size, material and batch, centrifuge speeds, storage temperature, time and conditions, and even environmental changes in the collection room. Any biobank or research study should establish and follow a well-defined and validated protocol for the collection of samples for metabolomics research. This protocol should be fully documented in any resulting study and should involve all stakeholders in its design. The use of samples that have been collected using standardized and validated protocols is a prerequisite to enable robust biological interpretation unhindered by unnecessary preanalytical factors that may complicate data analysis and interpretation.


Jennifer A. Kirwan, Lorraine Brennan, David Broadhurst, Oliver Fiehn, Marta Cascante, Warwick B. Dunn, Michael A. Schmidt, Vidya Velagapudi. Preanalytical Processing and Biobanking Procedures of Biological Samples for Metabolomics Research: A White Paper, Community Perspective (for “Precision Medicine and Pharmacometabolomics Task Group”—The Metabolomics Society Initiative). Clinical Chemistry 2018; doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2018.287045. [Epub ahead of print]


Preanalytical Processing & Biobanking Procedures


The authors thank Caleb M. Schmidt (Sovaris Aerospace), Robert Hubbard (Sovaris Aerospace), and Kenneth Nazir (FIMM Metabolomics Unit) for their editorial support. The authors also thank all the current members of the Precision Medicine and Pharmacometabolomics Task Group of the Metabolomics Society for their contributions. Current members include Rima Kaddurah-Daouk (Chair), Cristina Andres-Lacueva, Richard D. Beger, Lorraine Brennan, David Broadhurst, Marta Cascante, Warwick Dunn, Oliver Fiehn, Steven S. Gross, Thomas Hankemeier, Jennifer A. Kirwan, Gabi Kastenmu¨ller, Andrew Lane, Matej Oresic, Michael A Schmidt, Karsten Suhre, Susan Sumner, Ines Thiele, Vidya Velagapudi, David S. Wishart, Roland Wohlgemuth, and Krista Zanetti. The authors thank Richard Beger, Cristina Andres-Lacueva, Andrew Lane, and Karsten Suhre for their helpful comments on the manuscript.