Proteins are large complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They are the “machines” of the cells that allow them to function. Proteins are made up of large numbers of smaller units called amino acids which join together to form long chains which we term “proteins”. The human body is estimated to contain up to a million different proteins.
The complex profile of proteins within an organism is very dynamic, it changes due to many factors such as stress, disease, therapy. This complement of proteins in the body is known as the “proteome” and the study of it, and its changes, is known as “proteomics”.
Mass Spectrometry is a technique, using very specialised instrumentation that measures the weights of molecules – for example, proteins and fragments of proteins. Being able to know the molecular weight of a protein allows us to decipher its identity by breaking it up into its constituent amino acids.
The biological mass spectrometry/clinical proteomics group in the centre analyses samples (blood or urine samples for example) from distinct groups of patients – cancer versus non-cancer, or perhaps responder and non-responders to therapy and looks for proteins that are different between the groups. These can then be used as a possible diagnosis test, or even a possible target for a vaccine for the immunology research programme.
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