Product News: UAB Develops a ‘Bioenergetic Health Index’ (BHI) Using Seahorse Bioscience XF Technology

30 May 2014


Seahorse Bioscience the industry leader in metabolic analyzers and assay kits for measuring real-time cell metabolism, recently participated in a study with the Mitochondrial Medicine Laboratory at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, to develop a “Bioenergetic Health Index,” or BHI. Researchers at UAB created the BHI, which is an experimental blood test that can determine a patients’ baseline bioenergetic status by gauging the performance of mitochondria, the cell’s energy powerhouses.

The paper titled The Bioenergetic Health Index: A New Concept in Mitochondrial Translational Research, published in the journal Clinical Science, details findings of this blood test that could prove to be a significant early warning system for people with chronic diseases known to damage the mitochondria, such as HIV, alcoholic hepatitis, age-related diseases and more.

“BHI is an especially important and timely measure that meets a large and growing unmet need because of the obesity epidemic in America,” stated Victor Darley-Usmar, Ph.D., professor of Pathology, director of the Mitochondrial Medicine Laboratory at UAB, and lead author of the study. “Obesity, and some of the medications used to treat it, can damage mitochondria, thereby reducing a person’s ability to combat the stress of disease. In clinical settings, BHI could be measured to baseline the bioenergetic status of a patient before they undergo different procedures.”

The biology of changing energetics and its role in disease has long been recognized but it is not well quantified and feasible, due in part to technological limitations in measuring mitochondrial function in small numbers of cells. “Previously it would take several million cells to accurately measure oxygen consumption and this was not available from the typical clinical blood draw,” continued Darley-Usmar.

The Seahorse XFe96 Extracellular Flux Analyzer simultaneously measures the two major energy-producing pathways within the cell – mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis – in a microplate, in real time. The XFe96 Analyzer and Stress Test Kits standardize the measurement of mitochondrial function and glycolysis, helping scientists better understand the connection of physiological traits of cells with genomic and proteomic data. This knowledge will generate new insights into cell metabolism and mitochondrial function, leading to a greater understanding and new treatments of diseases, such as obesity.

“We have been looking for an opportunity to develop our XF technology to address clinical needs and Victor’s work on BHI is the most attractive and compelling one that we have come across. We are very excited about deploying our latest advances to enable routine measurement of bioenergetic health in a clinical setting,” stated David A. Ferrick, Ph.D., chief scientific officer for Seahorse Bioscience.

BHI gauges mitochondrial function by measuring oxygen consumption, which is itself a measure of energy production, in peripheral blood cells. The concept is that as BHI declines it acts as a biomarker of the patient’s overall ability to provide sufficient energy to fight disease.

“Now that instruments are much more sensitive and standardized we have been able to routinely generate BHI values from patient blood draws in a clinical setting,” says Darley-Usmar “The concept is in its early stages and clinical trials are currently underway to determine how BHI changes with health and disease in individual patients.

The BHI could play a significant role in personalized medicine, the concept of tailoring medical interventions to individual patients based on patients’ genetic makeup and factors that influence their BHI such as diet, exercise and environmental exposures. Combining BHI with genomic and other genetic and cellular indicators could produce a personalized medicine profile. For example, in patients with diabetes a low BHI could signal an increased risk of kidney damage even if other clinical indicators are only slightly elevated. Armed with the patient’s BHI, a physician could modify treatment to decrease risk of kidney failure.