Provista Blog > How Will Proteomics Change the Face of Cancer Detection?
Many of the human biological processes, both normal and abnormal are controlled by proteins. Proteins are essential for cellular function, making them more complex, diverse, dynamic and reflective of cellular physiology than genes. For this reason, protein biomarkers have emerged as a powerful technology to decipher biological processes and pathophysiology of cancer.
Proteins are made using the "Central Dogma of Biology," which states that DNA makes RNA and RNA makes proteins. DNA encodes the genetic blueprint that drives all cellular development and function. A strand of DNA consists of chemical bonds that form a double helix – the structure of which is often compared to a twisted ladder. The rungs of the ladder are pairs of nucleotide bases.
DNA is comprised of four bases:
Located within DNA are coded messages called genes. When decoded, genes inform the cellular machinery how to sequentially assemble a specific protein. There are between 20,000 and 25,000 protein-encoding genes in the human genome.
Gene expression is the process by which a gene is turned on (or activated), thus producing RNA (ribonucleic acid), which can then be translated into proteins. The process of gene expression is comprised of two major steps known as transcription and translation.
The DNA double helix unwinds and is read by an RNA polymerase which generates RNA. The resulting strand of RNA is called messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA is transported out of the nucleus and into the cytoplasm for translation.
The information that is contained in mRNA is translated by structures called ribosomes located in the cytoplasm, which read the sequence of nucleotide bases–three nucleotides (referred to as a codon) coding for a particular amino acid.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in the same way that nucleotides bases are the building blocks of DNA. There are 21 different standard amino acids. Once the mRNA is fully translated, the amino acid chain takes on different folding or coiling patterns resulting in the final protein structure.
Proteins play many critical roles in the body, including acting as precursors for metabolic reactions, DNA replication, and the intracellular and extracellular communication. The proteome is the entire set of proteins produced or modified by an organism or system. As a cell transforms from "non-diseased" (benign breast lesions) to "diseased" (invasive breast cancer/ductal carcinoma in situ), distinct changes occur that could act as early warning signals of breast cancer and be potentially detected through biomarkers.
Protein biomarkers provide early warning signals of breast cancer that are detectable in the bloodstream. To learn more about the role protein biomarkers play in ruling out breast cancer and identifying cancer at the earliest, most treatable stage, read our guide:
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