Arthur Edison, Ph.D.
GRA Eminent Scholar
University of Georgia
As one of the leading researchers in metabolomics – the wide study of small molecules – Arthur Edison has helped improve techniques and instrumentation to advance the field as a whole.
At the University of Georgia, Edison leads the world-class Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility in the UGA Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. The facility has long supported significant research in structural biology; under Edison’s leadership, it will become a major center for metabolomics, too.
With its potential for insight into the health of the human body, metabolomics has many applications. For example, Edison’s lab has been collaborating with University of Florida scientists on a series of studies on Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The researchers are looking at samples of patients’ metabolomes to identify patterns that could serve as an early diagnostic. In the future, such knowledge might allow therapeutic invention before a patient gets sick and help doctors know if a treatment is working.
Edison’s lab focuses primarily on an organism called Caenorhabditis elegans, a small nematode (aka worm) that has been studied extensively over the past decades. Scientists’ knowledge of the worm’s basic biology makes it a good candidate for investigating topics that are still unknown — in this case, the role that metabolomics plays in development and behavior.
Because many potential metabolites remain unlabeled, Edison and his team are seeking to identify more metabolites and add them to the “known” list. By studying the metabolome of C. elegans — including hundreds of genetic strains of C. elegans that exist in the wild, or have been developed for other projects — Edison’s lab can learn more about metabolites that exist in all life.
Edison’s main analytical tool is Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) — a technique similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used in most hospitals — that provides an atomic-level view of molecules in a biological sample. In Edison’s lab, the samples are usually fluids from people or other animals, plants or microbes that they are studying. With worms, they examine metabolites that are naturally released for communication or a liquid extract made of the worms themselves.