Thanks to the mapping of the human, mouse and other genomes in recent years, the process grew increasingly labor-intensive as demand for faster, more precise protein identification swelled. Technology couldn't keep up with discoveries.
But the labor intensity of the procedure is now a thing of the past for researchers in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine. The Proteomics Shared Resource, an unassuming but state-of-the-art lab on the fifth floor of OHSU's Medical Research Building, can process more than three times as many protein samples in half a day, and much of it can be done by one person.
"This can do 180 samples in six hours," said Bystrom, the lab's director, motioning to the large, blue-hooded 2DiDx spotcutter and sample preparation workstation as he scans computer images of raw sample data collected the day before. "For us, it's absolutely great. If you were to do this manually, you're going to do about 20 a day."
The 2DiDx workstation is one of several sophisticated devices occupying nearly every corner of the lab, a research core of the OHSU Office of Research Development and Administration that opened Feb. 17. Funded by a grant from the Oregon Opportunity, the public-private, $500 million biomedical research funding initiative, the facility also contains a highly sensitive, laser-activated flouroimaging machine, which can provide detailed digital images of stained proteins suspended in gels, as well as a mass spectrometer the size of an upright piano, and a liquid chromatography machine.
And the latest software helps Bystrom and his research associate, Deb McMillen, manage the samples, analyze the proteins and mine genome databases around the world to help identify them.