Proteins constitute the most abundant and versatile biomolecules present in living cells, properties dictated by the genetic code. Their diverse structure and function are responsible for key cellular processes including metabolism and cell movement. They are also implicated in many diseases whether genetic, multifactorial or degenerative. Studying protein function and shape is central for understanding disease and for the discovery of new drugs. The aim of the EU-funded PEPMIP (Robust affinity materials for applications in proteomics and diagnostics) project was to improve existing means of protein analysis through novel materials. These next-generation compounds were designed to recognise peptides and proteins for use in protein analysis for conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease. One of the key objectives of the PEPMIP consortium was to improve the detection of phosphorylated proteins. Researchers therefore optimised a technique that was applied to crude cell extracts in order to selectively enrich and detect a large number of phosphorylated peptides. Project partners also developed materials for use in biomarker detection, successfully targeting the amyloid beta protein and the recently identified biomarker for small cell lung cancer, progastrin-releasing peptide (ProGRP). These materials were in the form of composites, micro- or nanoparticles. Thin composite films were used by scientists to successfully detect ProGRP in serum samples. This new templating approach to produce imprinted materials represented an interesting scalable technique with which to produce mesoporous materials with a very narrow pore size distribution. An urgent need for reliable and sensitive diagnostic methods for prompt disease prediction has made the technological advances of the PEPMIP study invaluable. Integration of the generated materials on chip devices should lead to high-throughput and robust diagnostic tools. The PEPMIP approach can be applied to essentially any detectable peptide biomarker, thereby enabling bottom-up protein diagnostics on a large scale. This will have a significant impact on healthcare and disease management.
Proteins, PEPMIP, proteomics, diagnostics, progastrin-releasing peptide