Thyroid nodules can be classified into benign and malignant tumors. However, distinguishing between these two types of tumors can be challenging in clinics. Since malignant nodules require surgical intervention whereas asymptomatic benign tumors do not, there is an urgent need for new techniques that enable accurate diagnosis of malignant thyroid nodules. Here, we used 1H NMR spectroscopy coupled with pattern recognition techniques to analyze the metabonomes of thyroid tissues and their extracts from thyroid lesion patients (n = 53) and their adjacent healthy thyroid tissues (n = 46). We also measured fatty acid compositions using GC-FID/MS techniques as complementary information. We demonstrate that thyroid lesion tissues can be clearly distinguishable from healthy tissues, and malignant tumors can also be distinguished from the benign tumors based on the metabolic profiles, both with high sensitivity and specificity. In addition, we show that thyroid lesions are accompanied with disturbances of multiple metabolic pathways, including alterations in energy metabolism (glycolysis, lipid and TCA cycle), promotions in protein turnover, nucleotide biosynthesis as well as phosphatidylcholine biosynthesis. These findings provide essential information on the metabolic features of thyroid lesions and demonstrate that metabonomics technology can be potentially useful in the rapid and accurate preoperative diagnosis of malignant thyroid nodules.
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