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Discovery proteomics: application to HIV infection
  1. David Haarburger,
  2. Tahir S Pillay
  1. Division of Chemical Pathology, National Health Laboratory Service, Groote Schuur Hospital, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to David Haarburger, Division of Chemical Pathology, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, C17 National Health Laboratory Service, Groote Schuur Hospital, Private Bag, Observatory 7937, South Africa; david.haarburger{at}

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The (re)development of proteomic techniques in the 1990s has provided the researcher with a set of new tools to help understand biological processes at the molecular level. Modern proteomics began with the reapplication of a classical protein separation method to modern biochemical problems. Great strides have been made since then, with the currently available genomic toolbox and associated bioinformatic tools, but these techniques have several limitations.1 Understanding the biology of cells at the genetic level is not always equivalent to understanding it at the protein level, and this is crucial since it is the proteins that are the functional molecules of the cell.

Proteomics can be defined as the study of the full set of proteins expressed by an organism, tissue or cell, and the change in their expression patterns under different conditions. It initially developed from analytical biochemical techniques used for protein separation and has since been applied clinically. It has been used to identify proteins involved in pathological processes and to evaluate changes in protein expression during illness. A major focus of clinical proteomics has been cancer research but the techniques are equally valid when studying infectious diseases.

Proteomic methods can be used in various ways to study infectious diseases. For example, the pathogen itself may be studied, the host or immune response to the pathogen can be examined, or the mechanism of action of antimicrobials can be determined. A vast amount of research has also been applied to the development of biomarkers for the diagnosis of diseases and for the monitoring of their progress.

The HIV pandemic has resulted in the death of over 25 million people, and the virus currently infects almost 40 million of the world's population.2 Although tremendous progress has been made over the years, understanding of the pathogenesis and treatment of the infection …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.