The challenge of proteomics is personified in the Greek god, Proteus. The keeper of all knowledge, past, present and future, Proteus would not give up any information easily; even while held down, he would struggle and assume different forms before giving anything up. Remarkably, proteomics, and proteins for that matter, were not named after Proteus, but the imagery could not be more fitting.

It's still anyone's guess what the final gene count will be in the human genome, let alone the total number of proteins. But one thing is for sure: The proteome is astoundingly more complex than the genome. And it is not just the numbers, though they are staggering: 30,000 genes could well translate into one million proteins.

Where genes are easily manipulated and synthesized, allowing scientists to anticipate how they will behave chemically, researchers have no such luck with the proteome: The proteome's truly exasperating feature is...

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