Swedish project maps half of all human proteins
10 Dec 2010
A Swedish project has mapped 10,000 human proteins, reaching
the half-way point of a major initiative to map every single protein in
the human body.
Once complete, the Human Protein Atlas will provide scientists
with data that will help detect and treat some of the world’s most
serious health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular and
Bringing together scientists in the Stockholm-Uppsala region, the
Human Protein Atlas project is a collaboration between the Royal
Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Uppsala University. It
seeks to emulate the success of the Human Genome Project, focussing
on the previously uncharted human proteome.
A world first
Proteins are vital entities in human cells and are involved in
nearly all body functions both in healthy and diseased individuals.
They are the targets for essentially all pharmaceutical drugs. There
are 20,000 proteins created by the human body, but a large portion
of these important building blocks have never been characterized.
Explaining the importance of the Human Protein Atlas, Professor
Mathias Uhlén, project founder, said: “Proteins are the essential
building blocks of human life; they govern every way that the body
grows and develops. If we can properly identify and understand the
behaviour of each of these 20,000 proteins we will unlock the code
to understanding how and why diseases develop, paving the way for
more successful treatments and better diagnostic tools.
“Mapping the human proteins makes it possible to fully exploit
the results from the human genome project. Together, mapping the
human building-blocks at the genome and proteome level has the
potential to transform modern medicine. Reaching this half way point
is significant for the Human Protein Atlas project as it moves us a
significantly large step closer to completion, which we anticipate
to be in 2015.”
In recent years there has been an increased interest and
investment in a more personalised approach to medicine, facilitated
by a better understanding of human proteins. This approach means
doctors can detect disease at a much earlier stage and select the
right treatment for each patient.
Research breakthroughs, like the Human Protein Atlas project,
will enable earlier and more precise diagnosis, a necessity for
selecting which patients that actually might benefit from expensive
and very targeted drugs which only work for specific small groups of
What does mapping all human proteins mean?
The Human Protein Atlas project researchers in Sweden and Asia
are able to map between eight and ten proteins each day, and 2,400
every year. It is on track to map all the proteins by 2015.
Using genes as a starting point, scientists at the Human Protein
Atlas project identify the associated protein. A specific region of
the protein is chosen for the purpose of acting as a ‘signature‘ or
template for making associated antibodies.
These antibodies are then used as tools to document expression
and localization of proteins in a large variety of normal human
tissues, cancer cells and cell lines.
The Human Protein Atlas project reached its half-way point on
Monday 15 November 2010. A description of the new release was
published on 08 December 2010 in the international journal
Nature Biotechnology, due to be published.
The results are made available in a very detailed online database
which is made available to scientists from around the world to
access free of charge at