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Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2002 Jan;29(1):115-32. Epub 2001 Nov 14.

Functional genomics and proteomics--the role of nuclear medicine.

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  • 1Clinical Cooperation Unit Nuclear Medicine, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.


Now that the sequencing of the human genome has been completed, the basic challenges are finding the genes, locating their coding regions and predicting their functions. This will result in a new understanding of human biology as well as in the design of new molecular structures as potential novel diagnostic or drug discovery targets. The assessment of gene function may be performed using the tools of the genome program. These tools represent high-throughput methods used to evaluate changes in the expression of many or all genes of an organism at the same time in order to investigate genetic pathways for normal development and disease. This will lead to a shift in the scientific paradigm: In the pre-proteomics era, functional assignments were derived from hypothesis-driven experiments designed to understand specific cellular processes. The new tools describe proteins on a proteome-wide scale, thereby creating a new way of doing cell research which results in the determination of three-dimensional protein structures and the description of protein networks. These descriptions may then be used for the design of new hypotheses and experiments in the traditional physiological, biochemical and pharmacological sense. The evaluation of genetically manipulated animals or newly designed biomolecules will require a thorough understanding of physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology and the experimental approaches will involve many new technologies, including in vivo imaging with single-photon emission tomography and positron emission tomography. Nuclear medicine procedures may be applied for the determination of gene function and regulation using established and new tracers or using in vivo reporter genes such as enzymes, receptors, antigens or transporters. Pharmacogenomics will identify new surrogate markers for therapy monitoring which may represent potential new tracers for imaging. Also, drug distribution studies for new therapeutic biomolecules are needed, at least during preclinical stages of drug development. Finally, new biomolecules will be developed by bioengineering methods which may be used for isotope-based diagnosis and treatment of disease.

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