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Proteomics and genomics research combine to offer more insight into medical conditions

November 13, 2014

Proteomics & Geonomics Researcher

The discovery of DNA opened the door to countless avenues of knowledge and scientific research into life. From DNA, scientists have launched investigations into how cells function, why certain genes are expressed while others are not, and how life on the earth evolved from single-celled organisms.

Yet, there is a lot that happens inside the body between the cellular nucleus that houses DNA and the world outside the individual cell. All of these processes are mitigated by proteins and this phenomenon is the focus of proteomics. According to an article published in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, advances in technology are making it possible for scientists to study proteomics more closely and in tandem with genomics. Over time, this will greatly improve doctors' and researchers' understanding of how diseases develop and how they can be treated.

"To leverage the technologies and the huge accumulated knowledge from proteomics and genomics, research teams must conscript from multiple disciplines," Mary Lopez, Ph.D., director of the Thermo Fisher Scientific Biomarker Research Initiatives in Mass Spectrometry Center, wrote in the column. "Although this is not an entirely new concept, investigators with the breadth of knowledge to oversee proteogenomics projects are the exception, not the norm. In this regard, collaboration across multiple principal investigators is paramount to success."

What challenges are there?
According to the federal Office of Cancer Clinical Proteomics Research, proteomics is more complex than genomics for several reasons. Many different proteins can all be products of the same gene, proteins undergo many more different modifications compared to genes, and proteins exist at different concentrations throughout the body. However, advances in technology are allowing scientists to overcome these obstacles. Innovations in the lab include mass spectrometry, protein microarrays, systems biology models, new reagents, and nanotechnology.

In her article, Lopez provided three examples of research in which proteomics and genomics are combined and work in tandem:

  1. Researchers at the Buck Institute for Research in Aging are exploring how chronic DNA damage results in the depletion in a family of histones, and how this process may be related to aging;
  2. One team of scientists is investigating how various proteins are expressed in different forms of breast cancer;
  3. An experiment looking at the relationship between genes, mRNA and proteins is helping with the identification of different subtypes of colorectal cancer.

Earlier in 2014, the Office of Cancer Clinical Proteomics Research announced that scientists created a draft map of the human proteome, which encompassed proteins encoded by nearly 17,300 genes. This map is meant to be a resource that can complement other tools in proteomics investigations.

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