Use of mass spectrometry to help answer complex biological questions
The workhorses of biological systems, and the value-added products derived from them, are proteins and metabolites. Understanding the physiology of any biosystem requires ascertaining the temporal connections between the genome, proteome and metabolome under different environmental regimes. Such work is challenging; protein and metabolite levels are dynamic and cell type specific, adjusting in response to environmental inputs and genetic controls. Furthermore it is not possible to amplify the proteome or metabolome as is the case with nucleic acid technologies, thus one is limited to the compounds produced by the organism. As Director of the VT Mass Spectrometry Incubator (VT-MSI), Dr. Helm and his team strive to support the teaching and research needs of the University as well as aid in the expansion of mass spectrometry-based life sciences research on campus. The facility provides access to equipment and technical staff for generation of preliminary as well as publication-ready data, working in collaborative fashion. Within CTE, he works with Padma Rajagopalan and T. M. Murali to investigate the mechanisms by which liver cells communicate within the in vitro liver models developed by Rajagopalan.