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Metabolism changes extensively during the normal proliferation and differentiation of mammalian cells, and in cancer and inflammatory diseases. Since changes in the metabolic network reflect interactions between genetic, epigenetic and environmental changes, it is helpful to study the flow of label from isotopically labelled precursors into other metabolites rather than static metabolite levels. For this Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is an attractive technique as it can quantify site-specific label incorporation. However, for applications using human cells and cell lines, the challenge is to optimize the process to maximize sensitivity and reproducibility. Here we present a new framework to analyze metabolism in mammalian cell lines and primary cells, covering the workflow from the preparation of cells to the acquisition and analysis of NMR spectra. We have applied this new approach in hematological and liver cancer cell lines and confirm the feasibility of tracer-based metabolism in primary liver cells.
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