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The number of papers reporting new protein-function discoveries in 2017 declined by two-thirds compared with 2000 output, according to research led by A*STAR.
While the Human Genome Project has made the entire human genetic code available to researchers, making sense of this vast trove of data is challenging.
Biologists - Discovery - Gene - Function - Lives—it
"For many biologists, discovery of a gene function completely changes their lives—it is their main scientific achievement," says Frank Eisenhaber, director of A*STAR's Bioinformatics Institute (BII), who led the study.
The BII team, together with Lars Juhl Jensen from the University of Copenhagen, wanted to explore how the rate of new gene structure and function discoveries changed between 1901 and 2017, by looking at how many papers and patents appeared in the biomedical literature describing previously unknown gene and protein function discoveries.
Score - Publication - Equivalent - FPE - Equivalent
To do this, they came up with a score, called a 'full publication equivalent' or FPE, representing the published equivalent of one whole paper dedicated solely to a single genomic entity, whether a gene, a protein, or a non-coding RNA.
Overall, they found references to 17,824 human proteins and 2,641 human noncoding RNAs in the literature over that period. Of these proteins, 1,610 proteins (9 per cent) scored more than 500 FPEs and accounted for 78 per cent of all relevant papers published. Some of the most frequently mentioned proteins included insulin, serum albumin, tumor necrosis factor and p53.
Cent - Literature - Proteins - Cent - Total
A further 16 per cent of the literature was dedicated to another 3,207 proteins (18 per cent of the total), which scored between 100 and 500 FPEs. Just over one-third of all proteins mentioned in the literature—6,439 genomic entities—had 10—100 full FPEs. But only 6 per cent of the literature was left to cover more than 13,000 genomic entities.
The rate of protein function discoveries over time steadily increased from 1980—2000, such that by the year 2000, there...
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