Professor Neil Kelleher at Northwestern University gives a visionary talk about mapping an estimated 1 billion proteins in the human body. A lot of time in the media has been given to the sequencing of the human genome which has brought an astonishing rate of progress in medicine. This is not the final story though.
Genes are translated into proteins. If all of the genes in the human body are known then it should be possible to know all proteins translated from these genes. Knowing the protein correlate for each gene presents researchers with a target for the development of therapeutic agents.
The story is not yet finished. Proteins are further modified for instance by the addition of carbohydrates. The same gene may yield many versions of a final protein determined by the cellular environment in which the protein is created and these are referred to as proteoforms. Professor Kelleher’s vision is to characterise all of these protein variants and given the estimated number of proteoforms this seems a considerable challenge.
Professor Kelleher then takes us through some examples of how this could be useful in clinical diagnosis. Professor Kelleher is certainly visionary in his thinking. If his vision of a proteome is realised, the implications for medicine would be transformational.
History is replete with remarkable developments that have occurred only after a visionary reevaluation of an apparently unsolvable problem.