A team of six scientists has been formed to investigate the use of proteomic methods to evaluate stem cells in drug-development efforts as part of an initiative sponsored by the Human Proteome Organization and the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
The initiative, called the Proteome Biology of Stem Cells, is expected to last a decade. The task of the group will be to develop standards that can be applied to stem cells for use in drug development.
While stem-cell work has attracted a fair amount of attention for its therapeutic potential — not to mention the political firestorm surrounding the issue of embryonic stem cells in the US — it is a comparatively unexplored field within proteomics research. Indeed, a keyword search on PubMed with the terms “proteome,” “proteomics,” and “stem cell” comes up with only about 300 results.
In a document outlining the initiative, HUPO cited a “pressing need” for proteomic applications in stem cell biology.
A growing number of scientists has begun to chart the proteome of primary stem cells and stem cell lines and their differentiated derivatives, HUPO said. Work has also started to define a subset of stem-cell-specific proteins and to identify differentiation-specific proteins that “can be used as benchmarks for the intermediate or terminal steps of differentiation of cells.”
However, because stem cell biology and proteomics are highly specialized research areas, it is highly unusual for one person or even one facility to have expertise in both disciplines, the document states.
“The only way to bridge this gap and derive optimal benefit from what each field has to offer, is to bring together the specialists from both fields to discuss needs, possibilities, requirements, and conditions that will have to be resolved before collaborative efforts can be successful,” the HUPO document said. The Proteome Biology of Stem Cells is a “first step in this direction,” it said.
The long-term goals of HUPO’s partnership with ISSCR are to provide a platform for stem-cell proteomics researchers, to bring together experts from both fields to set up collaborations, and to make HUPO a leader in the area of stem-cell research.
“The only way to bridge this gap and derive optimal benefit from what each field has to offer, is to bring together the specialists from both fields…”
The work of the six-scientist group will be carried out in two phases. The first phase, expected to last one year, will focus on laying the groundwork for the group’s work in the future. Decisions will be made about such nuts-and-bolts issues as areas in stem cell research that most need proteomic analysis.
The group will also explore how cell lines can be made available for integrative or comparative proteomic studies. Collaborations between both organizations and with other labs will be promoted, sub-projects will be defined, and project leaders will be identified. Funding opportunities for collaborative efforts will also be discussed.
The second phase will analyze and interpret generated proteomic datasets. The datasets will be made publicly available. Additionally, the initiative will serve as the platform for “organized efforts for publication of review papers and meeting reports.”
Input from other HUPO efforts will be culled “for advice on setting up bioinformatics resources, dedicated databases, and a website to facilitate sharing and exchange of data, and to enhance productivity within the initiative,” HUPO said in its document.
The group will report on its work at the annual world meetings of HUPO and ISSCR, and at workshops and educational meetings will be held at meetings of both organizations.
Chairing the group will be Albert Heck of the Netherlands Proteomics Center and Paul Simmons, president of ISSCR. The co-chairs are Lee Bong-hee of Gachon University in South Korea; Kim Dong-wook of Yonsei University, also in South Korea; Tony Whetton, head of the School of Cancer and Imaging Sciences at the University of Manchester, UK; and Martin Pera, director of the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM) at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
This week, members of the initiative were at the ISSCR annual meeting in Queensland, Australia, and could not be reached for comment. But Lee of Gauchon University told The Korea Herald last week that work that will result from the HUPO/ISSCR collaboration will be different from other stem cell research being carried out.
“Many researchers have been only focusing on extracting stem cells, but it is equally or more important to find out how those cells will play when transplanted to a patient,” he said. The initiative has “the chance to verify and standardize ‘codes’ on how proteins [are] involved in developing a tumor and immune reaction.”