Metabolomics can detect which metabolites are present and their abundances in a given system at any given time. However, such measurements fail to capture pathway activity, or metabolic flux. By using stable isotopes (e.g. 13C, 15N, 18O) one can determine pathway activity or assess how a given molecule is metabolized. These studies can be performed in a wide variety of systems, but generally are most powerful in cell culture settings.
Here is an example where H218O was used to uncover active hydrolytic reactions during adipocyte differentiation.
Isotope tracer analysis studies generally require significant collaboration to ensure samples are treated and collected appropriately. Please contact Metabolomics Core Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your project.