The Dratz lab uses global proteomics and metabolomics to investigate signaling networks in cells, animals and humans. We are applying proteomics and metabolic technology to finding new early warning diagnostics for type 2 diabetes, to better understand Alzheimer's Disease, the triggering mechanisms human epilepsy, and reprogramming of adult human cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). We are developing new fluorescent reporters for measuring metabolite levels in living cells in real time, that show great promise for optimizing the hiPSC reprogramming process and thus increasing the practicality of regenerative medicine, promise to improve stem cell function in individual humans, and for providing new insights in many other states of health and disease . Prof. Dratz has a long standing interest in biochemical nutrition and is applying proteomic and metabolomic methods to gain deeper understanding of nutritional issues in human health and preventative medicine, in collaboration with researchers in Plant Sciences and Health and Human Developmetnt. We are also investigating the use of the volatile metabolites in human breath as non-invasive reporters of metabolic health. 

The genome of an organism is quite static (apart from rare mutations), whereas the proteins expressed or modified by cells often change rapidly in response to stimuli and cellular metabolism tends to respond even faster. Proteins typically contain many different post-translational modifications (PTMs), which affect a protein's activity, cellular localization, or teaming with protein partners. Proteomics technology uses mass spectrometers for protein identification and for characterization of PTMs, but first must rely on a variety of separation techniques such as 2D gels (e.g. Halligan, et al., Nucleic Acids Res. 2004;32: W638-44) or liquid chromatography to separate complex protein or peptide mixtures before mass spectral analysis. We have been developing and testing novel, designer fluorescent dyes, in collaboration with others in the Department, that enhance detection sensitivity, pinpoint posttranslational modifications, and monitor changes in enzyme activity in the proteome. The metabolome is close to the phenotype of cells and thus studies of the metabolome can often greatly increase our understand of cellular responses in health and disease. Proteomics and metabolomics are major research frontiers in biological R&D and there are abundant research opportunities in bioanalytical chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and collaborations in chemical biology or cell biology for students trained in proteomics and/or metabolomics.


Edward Dratz


Proteomics, Protein Chemistry, Chemical Biology