A team of Princeton biologists and engineers has dramatically improved the speed and accuracy of measuring an enigmatic set of proteins that influences almost every aspect of how cells and tissues function. The new method offers a long-sought tool for studying stem cells, cancer and other problems of fundamental importance to biology and medicine.
The research allows scientists an unprecedented look at a special class of proteins called histones, which are at the core of every chromosome and control the way instructions in DNA are carried out. Despite rapid progress in understanding the information encoded in DNA and genes, scientists have achieved much less insight into the so-called "histone code," which determines why a gene in one cell functions differently than the same gene in another cell.
"We take a cutting-edge approach to a field that has been using more or less the same techniques for the past 15 years," said Benjamin Garcia, assistant professor of molecular biology, who supervised the experimental aspects of the study.
The technique reduces by a factor of 100 the time it takes to analyze histones, while requiring far less sample material and achieving much more nuanced results than existing methods, said Christodoulos Floudas, the Stephen C. Macaleer '63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science, who oversaw computational aspects of the research.
The researchers published their results in the October issue of Molecular & Cellular Proteomics. Their paper was selected as a "must-read" article in Faculty of 1000 Biology, an online journal that selects the most interesting papers in all biology based on peer opinions. A second paper detailing the computational part of the research appeared in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics this month.
Collaborators on the papers also include postdoctoral researcher Nicolas Young and graduate student Mariana Plazas-Mayorca of Garcia's group and graduate stu
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Princeton University, Engineering School