Thanks to the work by Utrecht University researcher Fan Liu and her colleagues, it is now possible to map the interactions between proteins in human cells. Until now, this had only been possible when a small number of proteins were brought together in an artificial setting. “We are now able to see which proteins work together and where they are linked”, explains Utrecht University Prof. Albert Heck. “This is essential in order to understand how proteins operate in a cell under healthy conditions, and what goes wrong in diseases.” The results of their research were published in Nature Methods on 28 September 2015.
The millions of proteins in our cells conduct all of the processes that regulate life, in constantly shifting interactions. These interactions are a lively dynamic of links between proteins - often numbering in the hundreds. Until recently, pharmaceuticals inhibited a single protein, but it is more effective to treat diseases by sabotaging the interactions between proteins. This is because the protein inhibited may actually have another useful, or even vital function in a healthy cell, which often results in undesirable side effects during treatment.