Q&A: The protein bias

New data show that protein research is stuck on a small set of molecules that was hot in the 1990s

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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At the dawn of the 21st century, scientists completed the first draft of the human genome and reported that human cells encode more than 20,000 proteins. But most of the protein research performed since has focused on about 2,000 proteins (mostly enzymes) that were already known and whose functions were well studied, according to an analysis published this week in Nature.
Image: Wikimedia commons
The Scientist spoke with lead author linkurl:Aled Edwards; about this apparent research bias. Edwards, a biochemist at the University of Toronto and director of SGC, a nonprofit that encourages research on proteins of medical relevance, describes why scientists appear to be stuck in their old ways and what can be done to encourage exploration into the unknown.The Scientist: What led you and your colleagues to recognize this research bias?Aled Edwards: It was really driven by a sense by our pharmaceutical partners...
TS:AE:TS:AE:TS:AE:TS:AE:A. Edwards, et al., "Too many roads not taken," Nature, 470: 163-5, 2011.

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