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Resource for Biomedical and Bio-Organic Mass Spectrometry

Michael L. Gross, Ph.D.

Center Overview

Mass spectrometry (MS) plays a vital role in biomedical research. In addition to its important traditional roles of structure determination of small molecules, trace analysis, and the identification of metabolites, carcinogens, and natural products, MS has become the premier tool for identification of proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and short sequences of nucleic acids. It is the tool that enables the emerging "omics" sciences (e.g., proteomics, lipidomics, glycomics) that aim for a comprehensive understanding of human health and disease at the molecular level. This is the framework for research at the Washington University MS Center where we are actively engaged in the study of lipids, proteins, and metabolites. At the three laboratories in the WU MS Center, we actively pursue new methods of research and support the research of collaborators nationwide.

Impact on Human Health

The mission of the MS Center is to develop and utilize powerful MS-based tools that can be used to understand proteins, lipids, and other biomolecules that are important in human health and disease. The center uses state-of-the-art instruments to identify candidate biomarkers of disease including proteins, peptides, lipids, and metabolites. We contribute to the integration of data from a wide variety of streams to understand health problems (e.g., proteogenomics, - combining the identification of proteins by proteomics with their genomics information from high-speed DNA sequencing). To complement protein identification by proteomic methods and to take advantage of the analytical methods that underpin proteins, the center seeks to provide methods and ways of thinking to understand proteins and how they change, fold, and interact with other molecules including themselves, other proteins (e.g., the oligomerization of A beta peptide in Alzheimer's disease). These studies require the high sensitivity, speed, and throughput of MS. The center is also committed to developing and applying methods directed at the analysis of lipids. This pursuit is important in understanding infectious agents including bacteria and other parasites. To solve these problems, we seek to develop and understand new approaches for analysis of lipids and to other scientists who are interested in lipid analysis.