Researchers in London say they may be able to predict a patient’s response to medication, simply by checking his or her urine. If it works, the technique would be a great boon for personalized medicine — not just helping to prevent adverse reactions, but also ensuring that patients get the most effective drug for their bodies, with personalized dosing.
The researchers report their work today in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their paper, the scientists explain a new technique for “metabolic profiling.” They asked 99 men to give a urine sample before taking a dose of acetaminophen (the common painkiller also known as Tylenol or paracetamol), and then another urine sample six hours later. The researchers found they could then predict how men would metabolise the drug — that is, they could predict how urine would look six hours after a dose — just by looking at pre-dose urine. One compound in particular was a good marker. That compound, named para-cresol sulphate, is a byproduct of action by certain bacteria in the gut.
This finding shows the “immense potential and power” of metabolic profiling, the authors write in their paper. Since compounds in urine depend on both genes and environment, it’s reasonable to hope that the approach might one day lead to more specific, useful interventions than genetic profiling alone.