Summary for the general public
Proteomics is the study of sets of proteins in an individual’s organs, tissues or blood, in particular their quantities, functional states and structures. Genes encode different groups of proteins in different types of cell that are then subjected to a range of secondary chemical changes to further fine tune their structure and function. This cell-specific pattern of protein production and modification is called the proteome.
Cell behaviour is largely determined by which proteins it produces and how these proteins are modified with the consequence that diseased tissue will have a different proteome to healthy tissue. Many drugs in clinical use target proteins that are either involved in the development of disease or in the generation of disease symptoms.
The picture above shows one of our three proteomics mass spectrometers: the mass spectrometer is on the left. The equipment on the right is for separating protein fragments before they are injected in a mass spectrometer. Two liquid chromatography set-ups are shown.
The CADET Proteomics Laboratory, led by Richard Unwin, develops and uses methods specifically designed to compare the proteome of tissue and blood samples from ill and healthy individuals. One of the main methods used in the laboratory is mass spectrometry. This method identifies thousands of proteins within each sample, by breaking the proteins up and measuring the mass of their fragments (see the mass spectrometry animation in ‘What we do’ for more detail). The use of chemical tags permits the comparison of their levels in diseased samples alongside healthy ones, to investigate whether the level of any particular proteins are different between the two groups. These differences might then provide information regarding how the disease develops, and may provide new targets for drugs.
We aim to:
- Observe how tissues change as they become diseased
- Discover the importance of these changes
- Develop drugs that specifically target these changes
Work is also underway to develop tests based on these proteins that can be used to help with early diagnosis or to help us decide whether a certain treatment will be successful or not.