University of Wisconsin researchers have discovered a new way to detect and quantify proteins, which could potentially lead to more efficient cancer research and diagnosis.
Joshua Coon, a biomolecular chemistry professor, leads the group that produced the research. Coon said the research will allow scientists to compare proteins of up to 20 different samples of proteins instead of just two, which is what the technology allowed for previously.
Coon said after the breakthrough, instead of just comparing one normal sample to one diseased sample, researchers will be able to compare whole groups of diseased samples to whole groups of healthy samples. He said this will create much more information from which researchers can learn.
The research group uses isotopes in the research because the isotopic versions of proteins are identical to standard proteins but still have a signature from the isotope, Coon said. He said the researchers mix two different protein samples to detect certain proteins and figure out how much the protein’s abundance changes from one sample to another.
He said this is significant because protein levels change in cells where certain diseases are present. This means the methods developed by the group’s research can be used to give a more efficient diagnosis of diseases and figure out which proteins to target for therapeutic intervention.
He said researchers could eventually map out which proteins are produced in disease cells and then target those proteins to eliminate the disease. He said the research gives scientists a way to target diseases and learn more about the biology of those diseases. Coon’s research group is looking at how protein-changes impact one’s susceptibility to diseases.
Alexander Hebert, a UW graduate student who was part of the research group, said the new method of measuring proteins take advantage of modern instrumentation in a way no previous method has.
Hebert said the new method will broaden the scope of their research.
“We’re hoping to expand it,” Hebert said. “It’s a tool for biologists to use to look into cancer cell lines and cancer tissues to speed up the process and make the research more powerful.”
Coon cited research done with the help of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery as an example of this new method, where researchers limited the amount of calories certain mice were allowed to consume. The researchers compared the proteins in these mice to those that were on a regular diet.
A lower caloric intake is associated with a longer life, Coon said. Because of this, the differences the researchers found between the mice who ate normally and the mice who consumed a lower amount of calories reveal what changes were happening to the cell.
Hopefully, Coon said, researchers will be able to learn the mechanisms of why low-calorie diet allows organisms to live longer.
“The amount of experimentation we can do will go up by tenfold,” Coon said. “Hopefully, we will be able to make interesting observations.”