New instruments within expanded lab space at the Lunenfeld will help our scientists analyze the composition, structure and function of these proteins, as well as how they interact with each other.
The new facility on the Lunenfeld’s ninth floor opened last month, and contains some of the most sophisticated proteomics and mass spectrometry instruments in Canada. Lunenfeld scientists’ discoveries in cell signaling, structural biology, and cancer biology rely in part on these technologies that help researchers separate, identify, and quantify specific human proteins, to determine their role in healthy and damaged or diseased cells.
“It’s a fantastic facility and a world-class, leading edge technology for exploring protein interactions,” said Brett Larsen, Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Coordinator at the Lunenfeld.
Seven mass spectrometers with advanced PC software and nano-flow chromatography are housed in the new space. Microscopic samples from cultured mammalian cells and model systems (including those from fruit flies or nematode worms, for example) are prepared and analyzed using instruments approximately one metre in length. The instruments measure and identify the proteins in the sample by separating the mixture, and taking snapshots of each of the individual components.
The software, developed at the Lunenfeld and used by other researchers around the world, sifts through thousands of pieces of data and matches them against the proteins in the initial sample.
Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras, a Lunenfeld investigator who holds the Lea Reichmann Research Chair in Cancer Proteomics, uses the mass spectrometers in the new facility to study the cellular mechanisms of cancer. She notes that the expanded space helps her and other researchers share their findings, including the teams of Drs. Jim Dennis, Daniel Durocher, Tony Pawson, Laurence Pelletier, Frank Sicheri, Jim Woodgett, and Jeff Wrana.
“The great part is that the openness of the facility will bring our work closer together. I think it will allow for more productive, collaborative interactions,” said Dr. Gingras.
Using these technologies to study the biological activities of proteins implicated in cancer and other diseases, Lunenfeld researchers are participating in international efforts to map the human genome. This work will impact the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, diseases of the immune and nervous systems, as well as inherited developmental disorders.