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Personal proteins: Assembling a “‘complete parts list’ of the human body”

Geneticist Michael Snyder, PhD, is on the forefront of a global effort to catalog -- and investigate -- the presence and activities of proteins in the human body. The worker bees of cells, proteins are responsible for the actions -- such as germ fighting, digestion, reproduction and more -- that keep us alive.

The task of tallying proteins is daunting, as a recent Nature article lays out:

Proteins... vary over time, changing during exercise, disease and menstrual cycles, for example. Another complication is that the most abundant protein can be about 10 billion times as common as the least.

Snyder started with himself and watched how his protein expression changed when he became ill with an infection. He also discovered his unexpected predisposition for diabetes. "I had no idea I'd turn out to be so interesting," Snyder told Nature.

The piece outlines the multiple global efforts to "create a 'complete parts list' of the human body,'" as described by Gilbert Omenn, MD, PhD, head of the Human Proteome Project. Those endeavors, including the HPP, are using a variety of methods and tackling different tasks. For example, one is looking at proteins involved in disease, while another is systematically probing proteins produced by each chromosome.

Ultimately, Snyder said he hopes he and others can assemble protein inventories on as many as a million people. A key challenge of this work is what to do with, and how to analyze, the enormous amounts of data generated.

Previously: Gene regulation controls identity -- and health, You say "protein interactions," I say "mosh pit:" New insights on the dynamics of gene expression and 'Omics' profiling coming soon to a doctor's office near you?
Image by Jer Thorp

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