25 September 2003

A researcher at The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is opening new avenues of scientific exploration by using 'database mining' to extract valuable information about how cells work.

The IMB`s Dr Rohan Teasdale is employing the technique to dig through the incredible wealth of information contained in the genomes of mice and humans.

He has won a $75,000 UQ Foundation Research Excellence Award to enable him to continue his important work.

Dr Teasdale says database mining, combined with traditional cell biology, allows a more intuitive approach to identifying information to give greater understanding of the crucial role different cell membranes play in physiological processes.

"Cell membranes and the proteins embedded in them are essential mediators of the transfer of material and information between cells and their environment, compartments within cells, and between regions of organ systems," Dr Teasdale said.

Transporting newly synthesised proteins to different cell membranes is a fundamental cellular process. Its disruption has been linked to diseases including cancer and high cholesterol.

Understanding the normal function of cell membranes will help the fight against such diseases.

"By combining database mining with cell biology we will develop reliable computational prediction methods allowing us to identify membrane proteins in the mouse and human genomes and predict their location in the cell," he said.

"Additionally, these predictive strategies can be confidently applied to different research projects by other research groups on a genome-wide scale.

"This unique synergistic approach, combining experimental evaluation with computational methods, will build significant collaborations within the UQ, Australian and international research communities.

"In the field of computational biology we are amongst the first to critically evaluate our computational predictions experimentally, while in cell biology we provide the degree of confidence necessary for experimental scientists to critically evaluate the worth of the prediction."

IMB Director Professor John Mattick AO said Dr Teasdale`s award recognised the growing influence of computational biology in bioscience research.

"By combining his excellence in both cellular and computational biology, as well as his extensive collaborations, Rohan is an example of the unique multidisciplinary research approach of the IMB," he said.

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