The sequencing of the human genome early this decade was a major scientific achievement, but it does not represent the final frontier of medical knowledge. Work underway at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, however, very well could.
A state-of-the-art new research facility within the school's Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology features highly specialized equipment devoted to proteomics, the study of protein production, function and interaction. Proteomics is much more complex than genomics, because a single gene can produce multiple proteins or generate distinct proteins within different types of cells. Proteomics is also more significant medically, because protein activity affects an organism directly, whereas genes have an impact through the proteins they encode.
"Studying all the proteins in a cell and how they interact and function in the body tells us much more than simply looking at the genome," said David Cool, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology and director of the new Proteome Analysis Laboratory (PAL).
"Proteomics is the next big step in medical research," Cool said. "Some of us believe it's the ultimate gateway to understanding the cause, diagnosis and treatment of disease."
In conjunction with the official opening of the PAL, the department is hosting a research symposium on "Proteomics in Modern Medicine," on Friday, October 31, from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. in White Hall, the medical school's new building on the WSU campus. The keynote speaker and Earl Morris Endowed Lecturer, Richard Caprioli, Ph.D., is Stanley Cohen Professor of Biochemistry and director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Center at Vanderbilt University. Caprioli is an internationally recognized, award-winning researcher whose groundbreaking work has greatly advanced the field of proteomics.
The symposium, which is free and open to the public, will also feature presentations by Cool and Kenneth Greis, Ph.D., associate professor of Cancer and Cell Biology with the University of Cincinnati and director of Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry for the university's Genome Research Institute.
"Dr. Caprioli has developed, even beyond my wildest dreams, the ability to take tissue sections and determine what proteins and peptides are there," Cool said. "This is a huge development in the field. It lets a doctor take a biopsy from tissue and scan it in a new way."
The new laboratory at Wright State will allow university scientists and research partners throughout the region to apply processes such as those pioneered by Caprioli.
"The equipment allows greater detail and accuracy," Cool said, "in that we're looking at more precisely at a broader range of peptides and chemicals in very defined regions of tissues and organs."
In contrast, traditional methods involve a time-consuming process of preparing a separate tissue sample and running an individual test for every substance one needs to measure.
In addition to serving as a unique resource for researchers throughout the region, the PAL has allowed the department to analyze samples for scientists working as far away as California.