Clinical Research into Proteomics Role in Diabetes May Help with Prevention and Treatment

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What is Proteomics?

Proteomics is a biotechnology science that involves identifying all of the proteins that are produced by one organism. Proteins are large functional molecules made by combining amino acids. Genes are responsible for the sequence of amino acids in each protein and can code for as many as 1,000 proteins per gene. Each person could potentially make over 1,000,000 different proteins in their body. These proteins have multiple jobs in the body including:

  • enzyme reactions
  • working as neurotransmitters to carry messages
  • regulation of cell reproduction
  • tissue growth and development
  • fighting disease as antibodies
  • carrying oxygen in blood cells

Proteomics in Medicine

Medicine looks at proteins that cause, treat and prevent disease. Defective proteins are sometimes made by the human body, whether from defective genes or changes in the protein itself. Some diseases like sickle-cell anemia or Huntington’s disease occur when the body makes a protein that doesn’t function as well as a normal protein. Many medications are proteins such as:

  • insulin
  • estrogen
  • interferon
  • Enbrel for rheumatoid arthritis
  • Herceptin for breast cancer

Proteomics is also proving useful in detecting markers of disease like the PSA or prostate specific antigen used to help detect prostate cancer. This area of research is promising for many different conditions like diabetes. Proteomics role in diabetes includes research into the causes and complications of a complex disease like diabetes.

Proteomics in Insulin-Dependent Diabetes

Proteomics has been a part of diabetes treatment since 1922 when the first patient was treated with insulin. Patients with type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes generally have lost the function of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetes has a genetic component in that it runs in families, but may also be related to something in the patient’s environment such as exposure to a virus or antibodies that destroy the function of pancreatic cells. Clinical proteomics research in diabetes aims to determine what possible changes in protein expression by these cells contributes to their decreased function. This may result in testing for certain protein biomarkers that could predict the development of type 1 diabetes in some patients. One protein called galectin has been identified by researchers in Denmark that seems to prevent damage to pancreatic cells and may offer protective effects for patients at risk for diabetes.

Proteomics in Type 2 Diabetes

Patients with type 2 diabetes usually can produce insulin, but their bodies become incapable of using the insulin efficiently. This is usually a slow process with insulin resistance developing over months or years. Proteomics research is underway to help identify patients with prediabetes. One 2009 clinical proteomics study was able to identify protein biomarkers in patients’ saliva that were associated with diabetes. Early identification of these biomarkers could help patients implement lifestyle changes that prevent the development of full-blown diabetes in the future. Another study in 2008 looked at biomarkers in urine that could help predict which diabetes patients might develop kidney disease.

Proteomics Role in Diabetes

Proteomics is an exciting area of research that may lead to help in prevention of diabetes and other complex diseases. Proteomics can lead to new protein-based treatments as well as identifying markers that help predict the course of diabetes and its potential complications which could help with strategies for prevention.


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Huntington’s Disease. Society for Neuroscience. Accessed September 13, 2010.

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Unraveling the Pathogenesis of Diabetes with Proteomics: Present and Future Directions. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics. 2005. Accessed September 16, 2010.

Proteome analysis may aid in diabetes research. Accessed September 16, 2010.

Proteomic Idenfitication of Salivary Biomarkers of Type 2 Diabetes. (abstract) Journal of Proteome Research 2009. Accessed September 16, 2010.

Urinary Proteomics in Diabetes and CKD. J Am Soc Nephrol 19: 1283–1290, 2008. Accessed September 16, 2010.