Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science AB

The Swedish initiative to map all human proteins reaches half-way point

Pressmeddelande   •   Nov 15, 2010 11:18 CET

15 November 2010

The Swedish initiative to map all human proteins reaches half-way point

  • The Human Protein Atlas project has mapped 10,000 individual proteins to date
  • Data will facilitate the early detection of disease and new medical treatments

Stockholm & Uppsala, Sweden -- Scientists in Sweden today marked the half way point of a major, ground-breaking initiative to map every single protein in the human body.

Once complete, the Human Protein Atlas will provide scientists with data which will help detect and treat some of the world’s most serious health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Bringing together scientists in the Stockholm-Uppsala region, the Human Protein Atlas project is a collaboration between the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Uppsala University. It seeks to emulate the success of the Human Genome Project, focussing on the previously uncharted human proteome.

Mapping unchartered territory: A world first

Proteins are vital entities in human cells and are involved in nearly all body functions both in healthy and diseased individuals. They are the targets for essentially all pharmaceutical drugs. There are 20,000 proteins created by the human body, but a large portion of these important building blocks have never been characterized.

Explaining the importance of the Human Protein Atlas, Professor Mathias Uhlén, project founder, said:

“Proteins are the essential building blocks of human life; they govern every way that the body grows and develops. If we can properly identify and understand the behaviour of each of these 20,000 proteins we will unlock the code to understanding how and why diseases develop, paving the way for more successful treatments and better diagnostic tools.

“Mapping the human proteins makes it possible to fully exploit the results from the human genome project. Together, mapping the human building-blocks at the genome and proteome level has the potential to transform modern medicine. Reaching this half way point is significant for the Human Protein Atlas project as it moves us a significantly large step closer to completion, which we anticipate to be in 2015.”

Personalised treatment

In recent years there has been an increased interest and investment in a more personalised approach to medicine, facilitated by a better understanding of human proteins. This approach means doctors can detect disease at a much earlier stage and select the right treatment for each patient. Research breakthroughs, like the Human Protein Atlas project, will enable earlier and more precise diagnosis, a necessity for selecting which patients that actually might benefit from expensive and very targeted drugs which only work for specific small groups of patients.

What does mapping all human proteins mean?

The Human Protein Atlas project researchers in Sweden and Asia are able to map between eight and ten proteins each day, and 2,400 every year. Using genes as a starting point, scientists at the Human Protein Atlas project identify the associated protein. A specific region of the protein is chosen for the purpose of acting as a ‘signature‘ or template for making associated antibodies. These antibodies are then used as tools to document expression and localization of proteins in a large variety of normal human tissues, cancer cells and cell lines. The results are made available in a very detailed database which is hosted online for scientists from around the world to access free of charge at http://www.proteinatlas.org/.

The Human Protein Atlas project will reach its half-way point on Monday 15 November 2010, a significant milestone for this project. At 6:30pm CET the additional data will be uploaded to the website (http://www.proteinatlas.org/). A description of the new release will be published in the December issue of the international journal Nature Biotechnology, due to be published on 08 December 2010.

Notes to editors

The following briefing sheets are available from the Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science website ( www.suls.se):

  • How does it happen? Background on the Human Protein Atlas project
  • 40,000 fish hooks: What can proteins tell us about disease?
  • Long live the craftsmen: Why are proteins important?
  • After the Human Genome Project: The role of the Human Protein Atlas

Photography is available on request.

What is the Human Protein Atlas project?

  • The Human Protein Atlas project is based at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden and the Uppsala University in collaboration with groups in South Korea, China and India.  This project systematically uses results from the Human Genome Project for each gene to create new knowledge about their corresponding proteins.
  • The Human Protein Atlas project maps between eight and ten new proteins every day. It is on track to complete by 2015.
  • The data is made available to the international scientific community free of charge via the internet.
  • Originating in Sweden, in the Stockholm-Uppsala region, the Human Protein Atlas employs 100 full-time staff in Sweden and across Asia, where scientists transfer the data they find back to the teams in Sweden.
  • The Human Protein Atlas project is funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

About Professor Mathias Uhlén

Mathias Uhlén is program director for the Human Protein Atlas project. He is also professor in Microbiology, at the School of Biotechnology, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm and Director at Science for Life Laboratory, Stockholm.

For more information: http://www.biotech.kth.se/proteomics/info/uhlen.html

About Life Science in the Stockholm-Uppsala region

Stockholm-Uppsala is one of the most innovative and productive life science clusters in Europe. A hot bed of life science it combines world-class scientific excellence through organisations including the Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University with major companies such as AstraZeneca and GE Healthcare.

Stockholm-Uppsala prides itself on a collaborative approach which has been instrumental in building a sustainable and highly productive life science region. Employing over 25 000 specialists, the region boasts over 500 companies and 300 major research projects. The region participates in one third of all EU funded life science research projects and is home to the Nobel Prize. Stockholm was named the most innovative European region in the EU Commission’s 2007 Innovation Scorecard.

While there are companies and research projects crossing all areas of the life science sector, particular specialisms in the region include protein science, neuroscience, infectious diseases and diagnostics. Breakthrough innovations developed to date in Stockholm-Uppsala include Sephadex, Xylocain, the Pacemaker, the Gamma Knife, ImmunoCap, Fragmin, Healon, Biacore, ÄKTA, Xalatan, Pyrosequencing, Seroquel and DuoLink.

For members of the media requiring more information, please contact:
Madeleine Neil, Stockholm-Uppsala Life Science, +46 18 57 23 53 / madeleine.neil@suls.se

Mary Clark / Sarah Decottegnie, Capital MSL, +44 207 307 5330 / sarah.decottegnie@capitalmsl.com