The following publications provide scientific background on, and new results arising from, the Recon4IMD project.
Integrative omics approaches to advance rare disease diagnostics
Over the past decade high-throughput DNA sequencing approaches, namely whole exome and whole genome sequencing became a standard procedure in Mendelian disease diagnostics. Implementation of these technologies greatly facilitated diagnostics and shifted the analysis paradigm from variant identification to prioritisation and evaluation. The diagnostic rates vary widely depending on the cohort size, heterogeneity and disease and range from around 30% to 50% leaving the majority of patients undiagnosed. Advances in omics technologies and computational analysis provide an opportunity to increase these unfavourable rates by providing evidence for disease-causing variant validation and prioritisation. This review aims to provide an overview of the current application of several omics technologies including RNA-sequencing, proteomics, metabolomics and DNA-methylation profiling for diagnostics of rare genetic diseases in general and inborn errors of metabolism in particular.
Personalized whole‐body models integrate metabolism, physiology, and the gut microbiome
Comprehensive molecular‐level models of human metabolism have been generated on a cellular level. However, models of whole‐body metabolism have not been established as they require new methodological approaches to integrate molecular and physiological data. We developed a new metabolic network reconstruction approach that used organ‐specific information from literature and omics data to generate two sex‐specific whole‐body metabolic (WBM) reconstructions. These reconstructions capture the metabolism of 26 organs and six blood cell types. Each WBM reconstruction represents whole‐body organ‐resolved metabolism with over 80,000 biochemical reactions in an anatomically and physiologically consistent manner. We parameterized the WBM reconstructions with physiological, dietary, and metabolomic data. The resulting WBM models could recapitulate known inter‐organ metabolic cycles and energy use. We also illustrate that the WBM models can predict known biomarkers of inherited metabolic diseases in different biofluids. Predictions of basal metabolic rates, by WBM models personalized with physiological data, outperformed current phenomenological models. Finally, integrating microbiome data allowed the exploration of host–microbiome co‐metabolism. Overall, the WBM reconstructions, and their derived computational models, represent an important step toward virtual physiological humans.
Integration of proteomics with genomics and transcriptomics increases the diagnostic rate of Mendelian disorders
By lack of functional evidence, genome-based diagnostic rates cap at approximately 50% across diverse Mendelian diseases. Here we demonstrate the effectiveness of combining genomics, transcriptomics, and, for the first time, proteomics and phenotypic descriptors, in a systematic diagnostic approach to discover the genetic cause of mitochondrial diseases. On fibroblast cell lines from 145 individuals, tandem mass tag labelled proteomics detected approximately 8,000 proteins per sample and covered over 50% of all Mendelian disease-associated genes. By providing independent functional evidence, aberrant protein expression analysis allowed validation of candidate protein-destabilising variants and of variants leading to aberrant RNA expression. Overall, our integrative computational workflow led to genetic resolution for 21% of 121 genetically unsolved cases and to the discovery of two novel disease genes. With increasing democratization of high-throughput omics assays, our approach and code provide a blueprint for implementing multi-omics based Mendelian disease diagnostics in routine clinical practice.