Researchers have discovered proteins that may be used to predict whether or not a liver transplant will be successful

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Image Source: Medical Xpress

A team of Northwestern University researchers has uncovered a family of proteins in the body that could help doctors anticipate which patients would reject a fresh organ transplant. The breakthrough heralds the start of a new era in the research of proteins in individual cells.

Scientists often examine changing patterns of proteins through goggles underwater, taking in only a portion of the information about their unique architectures. In a new study published in the journal Science, scientists examined these similar structures under a microscope and constructed a more detailed map of protein families. They then displayed the map in front of liver transplant recipients and discovered additional signs in immune cell proteins that altered as the patients’ bodies reacted to the transplant.

The Blood Proteoform Atlas (BPA) details almost 56,000 precise protein molecules (called proteoforms) as they appear in 21 different cell types, over ten times more than in prior research.

Image Source: Northwestern Now

At least 15 to 20 different processed protein forms exist for each human gene (proteoforms). There are millions of proteoforms formed by genetic variation, alteration, or splicing in the human body, which is made up of 20,300 distinct genes. The purpose of a significant science endeavor known as the Human Proteoform Project, according to Kelleher, is to provide a complete roadmap of each gene’s family of proteins, which will speed up discoveries regarding the disease, aging, and new therapies.

The Kelleher lab uses cutting-edge mass spectrometry and data processing to efficiently discover proteoforms in cells and blood, maintaining proteoforms intact in a “top-down” approach rather than chopping them up into tiny bits as is the industry practice.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Human Biomolecular Atlas Program, the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Program Award (award number: 11715), the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation grant (2016.0204), and the (2017-05327). The National Science Foundation’s Divisions of Materials Research and Chemistry, as well as the State of Florida, fund research at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

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