Topical Area: Education and Training
Objectives : Metabolomics, the comprehensive study of metabolites in biological fluids and tissues, offers the ability to observe metabolic changes in a more comprehensive context to identify metabolites altered by intervention. Traditionally, nutritional metabolism has been taught using book and journal article information. Due to the emergence of metabolomics research on University campuses, an opportunity exists to utilize this tool for the purpose of educating students. The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of involving students in a feeding research study using metabolomics analyses for the purpose of improving student learning of nutritional metabolism.
Methods : The study consisted of two groups (n=19/group) of nutrient metabolism students: (1) 12 hr fasting blood draw; (2) 2 hr postprandial blood draw following a breakfast meal. Plasma samples were analyzed using LC-MS targeted assays for primary metabolomics, aminomics, and lipidomics. Pre- and post-course questionnaires were completed by students in order to assess the educational interest and effectiveness of the activity.
The feeding intervention, sample and data analysis were completed within the first 4 wk of the academic quarter. A total of 221 metabolites were identified in the plasma. Altered metabolites included sugars, energetic pathway intermediates, triglycerides, bile acids, amino acids and acylcarnitines. Results were periodically presented in lecture and discussed using interactive group activities throughout the duration of the academic quarter immediately following review of related principle concepts of carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism. Course exams included essay questions requiring explanation of the potential metabolic pathway alterations connected to observed study results. An assigned project required inclusion of study results within an integrated metabolic pathway map. Student questionnaires indicated there was an increase in knowledge, in addition to an increased interest in research (P < 0.05).
Conclusions : The inclusion of metabolomics in University courses may increase student interest and effectively improve student learning of nutritional metabolism and research. Future studies are needed to test this concept for use in other courses.
Funding Sources :
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Food Science and Nutrition Department