Understanding the fabric of life - how proteomics is set to transform life sciences and human health (Part 1)

The proteomics revolution has started. 

It’s going to change our understanding of how life exists and provide insights into managing – and in some cases even eradicating – disease.

 

Around 20 years ago, the Human Genome Project, the first comprehensive sequencing of the human genome, provided a fundamental shift in thinking about our understanding of life. It consolidated scientific thinking around genes and ushered in the genomics revolution.

 

Though genetics has given us great insights into disease, it’s the translational and post-translational steps that occur when genes are translated into their functional endpoints, proteins, that will provide more clarity on the fabric of life.

 

That’s why proteomics, the study of the complete set of proteins that are expressed by our genes, is the next frontier of life sciences and medical research.

In my last blog post, I wrote about mass spectrometry-based proteomics (MSP), an analytic technique used to detect and investigate thousands of proteins simultaneously in a sample. MSP is used to address fundamental life science questions and has been the focus of my research career to date.

MSP harnesses the power of proteomics and is one of the most powerful scientific tools we have. It allows us to measure protein molecules directly, so we can see them in action and measure their changes over time, giving us insights into the fundamental molecular mechanisms of disease. 

 

As a result, MSP allows us to understand disease progression and identify potential therapeutic interventions, identify diagnostic markers even before a disease state, identify candidates for vaccine production and understand pathogenic mechanisms and gene expression patterns.

In this blog post, I’d like to follow on to talk about the power of proteomic discovery to set the scene for why we have built a new Mass Dynamics experience - MD 2.0, which is coming soon!

 

So, why is proteomics so powerful?

 

In a nutshell, proteomes change very dynamically over time as gene expression is regulated by signals mediated through the proteome, for example, in response to a change in the environment. These changes can involve a protein’s abundance, structure, sequence, chemical modification, location and interactions, and in doing so, dictate its function. 

In this way, proteomics allows us to see snapshots in time of how our genetics is interacting with the environment around us and affords us the ability to understand causative changes and processes by comparing a healthy proteome to a diseased proteome.

 

Scientists have long known about the potential of proteomics but have been challenged by the complexity of protein detection and analysis. We’ve more recently come to the realization that the combinatorial explosion of differentially modified proteins in living organisms is absolutely astounding.

 

Reflecting this, the UniProt Knowledgebase (UniProtKB), a public resource of protein sequences and functions, currently contains over 220 million protein sequences. It is continuously expanding as we discover new protein diversity and this sequence data becomes available.

 

Thanks to recent breakthroughs in proteomics sample preparation, data processing and downstream analysis, coupled with advances in proteomics techniques, such as bottom-up liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), we are now seeing the widespread adoption of MS as tool to characterize complex samples in multiple scientific fields, including basic science, drug discovery, drug development and in applied settings.

And that’s why we are standing on the edge of the proteomics revolution.

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I'll share what Mass Dynamics has built to unleash the power of proteomics.

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Thanks for reading this series of blog posts written by Andrew Webb - Chief Scientist and co-founder of Mass Dynamics. In addition to his role at Mass Dynamics, Andrew is an Associate Professor at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and co-founder and inventor at IonOpticks. Across each of these dynamic positions, he is on the coalface of leading science in both industry and academia. We’re thrilled that in this series of blog posts, Andrew shares with us how he discovered Mass Spectrometry, what he sees as the biggest challenges and opportunities, what the broader MS community is doing to drive impactful outcomes, who is reaping the benefits of MS and where he sees the future of analytical science heading.

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