'Omics' research is based on non-targeted investigations that provide a holistic view of the molecules present in a cell, tissue or organism and how they change in response to environmental stimuli. The different branches of 'omics' research each focuses on a specific of cell components. Genomics studies the genes that regulate cellular processes.
© Chepko Danil Vitalevich/Shutterstock.com
Transcriptomics measures mRNA to determine which genes are actively being expressed. Proteomics studies the proteins that are produced, and metabolomics determines the proportions of all cellular metabolites, which can indicate whether particular cellular pathways have been activated or inhibited at a given time.
Piecing together the data obtained across the range of 'omics' research has provided unprecedented insight into cell function. This in turn provides valuable information regarding normal cell processes and how they are affected by disease. Such knowledge provides the basis for effective treatments to manage a range of disorders.
The more that is discovered through 'omics' research, the more questions arise. It is therefore a continually evolving field with continually changing requirements. Collaboration between researchers and the manufacturers of analytical equipment allow an ongoing cycle of research and development to provide the analytical methodologies and instrumentation capabilities needed to implement the latest research projects.
Mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance have already revolutionized the detection and quantification of analytes in proteomic and metabolomic research, yet further enhancement of these analytical technologies and the development of novel methodologies continue to make more and more in-depth investigations possible.
At Pittcon 2018, taking place in Orlando from 26 February to 1 March 2018, leaders in the field of 'omics' research will present the latest advances and discoveries, and many of the leading manufacturers who provide the tools and technologies facilitating this research will be present to showcase the latest developments in analytical technologies.
This will include Professor Jeremy Nicholson, Head of the Department of Surgery and Cancer and Director of the MRC-NIHR National Phenome Centre Faculty of Medicine, presenting the Wallace H. Coulter Lecture at Pittcon 2018 “Analytical Science in Precision Medicine: Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century Healthcare”.
By using patient specific details at the genome, proteome and metabolome level, Prof. Nicholson will explore how the analytical technologies described throughout this article can deliver improved healthcare solutions.
Advances in mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry has been key to the advances in proteomics research. This sophisticated technology allows for the simultaneous analysis of hundreds of peptides so effects on several pathways can be studied in a single process. Although the sensitivity of analyses and accuracy of results for protein analyses by mass spectrometry have increased by several orders of magnitude in recent years, there continues to be modifications and adaptations that further increase its sensitivity and resolution and tailor it to specific proteomic studies.
The latest cutting-edge mass spectrometry methodologies have made it possible to study whole proteins. This has allowed a top-down approach to be adopted that identifies and quantifies which protein forms are present before the protein is broken down for complete characterization. The traditional bottom-up approach often results in a complex heterogeneous mixture of peptides that can be challenging to interpret.
Among the new technologies being developed to facilitate the successful implementation of top-down proteomics research is native electrospray mass spectrometry. Bruker will be at Pittcon 2018 to demonstrate the CaptiveSpray™ source and the new nanoBooster™, a revolutionary ion source designed to address some of the challenges of achieving a stable and robust nanoflow during electrospray mass spectrometry.
Details of a novel mass spectrometry-based approach designed for determining the exact structures of intrinsically disordered proteins will also be presented at Pittcon 2018. Until now, it has be notoriously difficult to analyse the larger proteins and protein complexes. This has been made possible through the development of an ion mobility-orbitrap mass spectrometer that has a high mobility resolution.
In addition, a range of chemical and enzymatic methods have been developed to facilitate the study of protein glycosylation using mass spectrometry. Glycosylation is one of the main protein modifications used to translate an external stimuli into physiological responses within a cell. The ability to now study it systematically opens up potential new routes for the development of treatments for a range of disorders associated with glycosylation errors. Furthermore, advances in mass spectrometry technologies have enabled analysis of site-specific protein glycosylation, which could identify potential biomarkers for the diagnosis of these diseases. These innovations will be described in more detail at Pittcon 2018.
ThermoFisher will also be present at Pittcon 2108, providing delegates with the opportunity to explore their latest high-performance systems for proteomics research, such as Orbitrap Fusion™ and Q Exactive™, which are designed for the identification of potential biomarkers.
Advances in genomics analysis
Despite unprecedented advances in genetic analysis techniques in recent years, we continue to learn about innovations that further enhance the capabilities for genomic analysis.
Single-cell sequencing is valuable technique for determining genomic variations in a heterogeneous population of cells. It has become particularly important for cutting-edge clinical diagnoses, such as molecular sub-typing of single tumor cells. It is generally conducted using microfluidic devices that allow effective high-throughput analyses of multiple single cells. Pittcon 2018 will include a presentation detailing a novel microfluidic device that enables single-cell whole-genome amplification and is designed to be suitable for potential applications in medical diagnoses.
Applying 'omics' research to real life
The tremendous advances in 'omics' research is truly impressive. Now we also have evidence of how this research can be utilized in applications relevant to everyday life.
Pittcon 2018 will be providing details of a range of both current and potential future real-world applications of 'omics' research, including medical treatment strategies, toxicity assessment, and detecting unscrupulous activity. Advances in nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics has made it possible for clinical cancer care decisions to be made on an individual patient basis.
Metabolic analysis to precisely subtype a tumour can indicate which treatment is most likely to be successful. Accurate a priori predictions of the likelihood of prostate cancer recurring have been made based on metabolomic profiles.
A new epigenetic identification technique using bisulfite modification, polymerase chain reaction and pyrosequencing has improved the accuracy of body fluid identification and phenotyping of body samples obtained at a crime scene. Similarly, human identification by DNA analysis has been facilitated by a novel DNA sequencing technology.
Find out more at Pittcon 2018
The research and technologies highlighted here will be covered in more detail in the symposia, oral presentations and poster sessions at Pittcon 2018, along with multiple additional cutting-edge developments.
Numerous market-leading producers of analytical equipment, including Bruker, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Waters Corporation, will also be present at Pittcon 2018 to discuss the latest additions to their capabilities and additional analytical requirements.
Pittcon® is a registered trademark of The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.
Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than a million dollars a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.
Visit pittcon.org for more information.