Exploring the Cell’s Molecular Inventory

  • Neil Kelleher and his group use proteomics to develop new methods to transform molecular diagnostics.
  • Using top-down proteomics, they are working to better understand the biochemical processes behind organ rejection.
  • They are pursuing the discovery and validation of protein-based biomarkers in organ transplantation and blood cancers.

Using mass spectrometry to study high-resolution proteomics (the structures and functions of proteins) and metabolomics (the unique chemical fingerprints that specific cellular processes leave behind) allows unique and unfettered access to a cell’s molecular inventory. As we accelerate into the new world of 21st-century molecular medicine, the ability to precisely characterize a cell’s contents and environment will frame the next generation of medical discoveries.

Neil Kelleher (pictured), professor of molecular biosciences, and his research group have dedicated themselves to this vision for a decade. Together with the Proteomics Center of Excellence, which he directs, they are developing new methods to transform molecular diagnostics. Using top-down proteomics, they are collaborating with the Northwestern University Comprehensive Transplant Center, led by Michael M. Abecassis, to better understand the biochemical processes behind organ rejection so that effective therapies can be developed to prevent rejection and other complications for transplant patients.

With Jonathan Licht, the Kelleher lab has been studying the linkage between histone methylation and certain types of leukemia. Recently the team discovered and studied a unique gain-of-function mutation in the histone lysine methyl transferase MMSET/NSD2.

Researchers in Northwestern’s growing Proteomics Center of Excellence, which will expand to the Chicago campus in 2014, are currently pursuing dozens of collaborations, including the discovery and validation of protein-based biomarkers in organ transplantation and cancers of the blood.

Photograph of Neil Kelleher by Andrew Campbell

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