Research approach

Due to the myriad of organs and metabolic pathways acted upon by exogenously administered agents either through primary interaction or secondary metabolic effects, indirect approaches (such as metabolomics) based on the detection of the physiological actions of anabolic agents offer potential to be used to screen samples and identify illicitly treated animals. These approaches can enable testing of an increased number of samples than is possible via current forms of analysis. In doing so, more laborious confirmative residue analysis can be focused only on those animal samples identified as being suspected of illicit treatment thereby leading to increased testing effectiveness. 

MET-A-FOR research will focus on the use of metabolomic profiling techniquesto detect the use of designer anabolic compounds in animals. The prospects for metabolomic techniques to be applied in areas associated with food safety and animal performance sports has been demonstrated through previous experimental work by the academic partner in this project, QUB, who have investigated the potential of “omic”-based techniques for use as indirect screening approaches to identify illegal substance use in animals. In particular, they have shown the potential of metabolomics to distinguish between animals treated under experimental conditions with a range of chemical treatments. Besides highlighting metabolic disruptions upon anabolic treatment of animals, these studies have also enabled identification of potential candidate markers of specific treatments.

The research activities of the MET-A-FOR project will centre on the use and development of in vitrochemical metabolism and biological metabolomicprofilingtechniques and will be performed principally through 4 research-focused workpackages (WPs 2-4). In order to develop research management and leadership competencies each of the 3 ESR Fellows recruited will be designated as WP Leader (under the direct supervision of one of the beneficiaries) for the WP most directly related to the core activities of their respective Individual Research Project (IRP) – see Table 2.1. Substantial WP interdependency exists for each of the planned IRPs which each ESR Fellow will undertake. Optimal cross fertilisation between the techniques and skills utilized within each WP will be facilitated by WP5 which will seek to integrate the work emerging from WP2-4 respectively. The following figure provides an overview of the various research phases of the project in the context of planned workpackage activities and ESR involvement: