Within the genes

Within the genes

While a lot of people are still unravelling the mysteries of genetics, a new science is making its mark and could influence drug discovery in the future. Katya Naidu tries to understand the finer aspects of proteomics

Long ago, while thinkers wondered where matter came from, it was postulated that atom was the smallest unit of matter; only to be disproved time and again after the subsequent discoveries of sub-atomic particles. The quest is still on for the smallest particle of the matter. Similarly, scientists are still wondering as to where life comes from and this paved the way to the science of genetics. Going a step forward, proteomics came ahead to explain why genes express in different ways.

Genes vs proteins

Genetics deals with the basis behind the characteristics of a person, but it is also true that all what is in the genes are not expressed as they are. These anomalies are explained by proteomics. “Proteins are the building blocks which are responsible for all actions in the body and are subject to the expressions of various genes. Since every action, like the onset of disease, reaction to drugs, progression of disease are all executed by proteins, we believe that if we can study this phenomenon we can have some solutions to control diseases. This study of proteins is proteomics,” says the Managing Director of a Hyderabad based biotech firm and an expert in proteomics.

The biggest upside that the pharma/healthcare industry could have with regards to proteomics is that this science would help them validate proteins. If they manage to crack this riddle, it can make it extremely simple to discover an assay and follow the disease path and subsequently manufacture agents to suppress the production/effects of this protein to ultimately get rid of the disease. The diseases that come under the purview are numerous jacketing a wide range of therapeutic areas, indicating magnanimous potential.

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Though there is an extremely bright light waiting at the end of the tunnel, as of now, the tunnel seems very much like an abyss. The study of proteins is an extremely complex process and the issue does not end with the indefinite number of proteins to be studied.

Each protein can have thousands of variations, making the study uncertain as well as expensive. Proteins are studied by quantifying different proteins in mass spectrometers with very high resolution. But, the variations of each protein make it difficult to validate them commercially.

Genes on the other hand are simpler to map and follow since they do show consistency among humans. What makes proteomics even more intricate is that there is a lot yet to be explained even in genetics. “All studies on proteomics is coming up with very complex results most often it is showing different outcomes in different humans depending on various unknown factors. This whole business of genes and proteins is still very complex and many institutes/scientists are involved in trying to solve this complex business with very little success till now,” says the expert. Moreover, there is also the task of validating proteins in different humans since each one seems to produce a different version of proteins depending on their individual gene make up and body metabolism.

The challenges only serve to make the science more mystic. However, there is no dearth of people trying to disentangle the unidentified and pave way a new revolutionary discipline in therapy.