Researchers produce largest scale map of human protein interactions

November 20, 2014

Scientists will be better able to trace how genetic changes give rise to diseases ranging from cancer to Huntington’s disease with a new map of protein-protein interactions within human cells produced by researchers at the Center for Cancer Systems Biology (CCSB) at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and associates around the world.

The expanded map, published online today by the journal Cell, is approximately 30 percent larger than the combination of all small-scale studies published in the scientific literature, and suggests that scientists may have been too narrowly focused in tracking the mechanisms responsible for disease. Whereas interaction maps have traditionally centered on genes and proteins known to be involved in specific diseases or important processes, the new map reveals that potential connections to disease exist beyond the confines of earlier studies.

“The search for genetic connections to disease has been compared to an individual looking for his car keys beneath a streetlight at night,” said Thomas Rolland, PhD, a co-first author of the study and researcher at Dana-Farber. “When a police officer asks why he’s looking there, he explains that that’s where the light is. By analogy, the new map casts a wider beam over the area to be searched, where the car keys would lie.”

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