Proteins at work – the fascinating world of proteomics

Be a muscle… make a bone,
carry nerve signals. DNA tells our cells exactly what to do
and when to do it. That’s why DNA is often called
the blueprint for life. But how do our genes give such orders? Each gene consists of a recipe
for a certain protein. Proteins are the machines
and workhorses of our body. Proteins trigger cells
to perform specific tasks, enabling the cells in your eyes to function
differently from the cells in your heart or brain. Our bodies are made up of
about 100 trillion cells, which each contain
thousands of different proteins! The collection of proteins
within a cell is called the proteome. The proteome is the counterpart
of the genome. Our DNA remains the same throughout our lives,
but our proteome changes. This explains how the grown-up, flying butterfly,
can become something so distinct… from the young, crawling caterpillar it once was. Few proteins work alone; they interact
and form relationships with each other… and the nature of these interactions changes over time. You could say proteins have their own
social network, just like us. Some proteins have lots of friends and contacts,
while other proteins only have a few. Sometimes a protein will break up an interaction
and start looking for a new partner. With approximately 10 billion protein molecules,
one single cell has an interactive network… that is as complex as that of all humans
currently living on planet earth. These protein networks
determine the health of a cell… and thereby the health of
the entire organism they are a part of. So it is easy to understand that the study of
these proteins and their relationships is crucial. This study is called proteomics. Understanding how cells work has made it possible
to develop revolutionary drugs … that are more effective
and have fewer side effects. To detect and identify different kinds of proteins,
we measure their unique fingerprints… with a technology called mass spectrometry. This technique can determine the identity and,
indirectly, the function of proteins. It involves shooting charged protein molecules,
or fragments thereof, into a vacuum tube… and measuring how long it takes
for them to fly to the other end. This flight-time depends directly on their mass. Another way we learn about the molecules
is by making them collide with gas molecules… which causes them to fragment
into smaller species. By measuring the mass of the fragments… we can determine what the protein’s building blocks
are and can thereby identify it. In one single experiment,
we do this for tens of thousands of proteins… and roughly a million fragments. This meter shows the huge amount of data
we are constantly producing by measuring proteins. Gigabyte after gigabyte, this information
helps us to precisely identify proteins… and the social networks in which they exist. But proteins are not unique to humans.
Every living species on earth is built up of proteins: jellyfish, polar bears,
tulips and even bacteria. For this reason, study
of the proteome will ultimately … lead to better knowledge, not only of diseases
and the effectiveness of drugs… but also of how plants can adapt
to dry or salty environments… and how we might eventually be able
to combat bacterial resistance. In recent years
scientists have learned … how to reprogram the proteome of skin cells
in a lab and turn them into stem cells. In other words, scientists are now able
to tell cells what to do… for instance, to regenerate tissue
or repair a damaged organ. New therapies for a healthier
society are on the horizon… due to the fascinating
research of proteomics. My name is Albert Heck, scientific director of the Netherlands Proteomics Center. With this video, we hope to have given
you a glimpse into proteomics research… and its endless applications. We hope this has sparked your interest into the world of the proteome, as it forms the basis of all that is known as life.

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