The passage and rationing of nutrients throughout the body is highly organized and efficient. By some amazing feat of logistics, each one of the trillions of cells in our body is rationed an appropriate amount of the food we consume. Once inside the cell, nutrients are further metabolized and compartmentalized according to the cellular energy needs. Under the hood, the human genome is estimated to encode about ~5,000 human metabolic enzymes. Additionally there are a large cohort of protein kinases, transcription factors, and other modifiers who sense the cellular environment and regulate the level and activity of these proteins in real time.
This system sometimes breaks down at the cellular level. When it does, it can cause disease such as cancer (uncontrolled nutrient uptake and cell proliferation), type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance and inability to store more glucose), or atherosclerosis (fatty plaques form in the vascular system) that significantly reduce the lifespan of the organism. We can reverse-engineer cellular metabolism by using traditional molecular biology to characterize the parts list, and use new technologies such as proteomics and network inference to understand how the parts work together in health and disease. I hope to harness the power of mass spectrometry in the Villen laboratory to make precise measurements of thousands of proteins as cells and organisms interact with their environment. This fundamental knowledge will lay the groundwork for metabolic monitoring and preventative medicine in the near future.
Copyright © 2003-2013 Molecular & Cellular Biology Program, University of Washington
Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center | University of Washington
Institute for Systems Biology | Seattle Biomed