NAPI partner profile: Tuula Nyman

Dr Tuula Nyman is the Project Manager at NAPI. In this profile article, Tuula discusses what NAPI will bring to proteomics research in Norway, her career highlights so far, and the Swedish Royal family performing mass spectrometry experiments.

Dr Tuula Nyman, with the timsTOF Flex instrument that was installed at PCF-OUS in February 2021. Photo: Fridtjof Lund-Johansen

1. Where do you currently work, and what is your role within NAPI?

I am the Head of the Proteomics Core Facility at Oslo University Hospital/University of Oslo (PCF-OUS), based at the Riks Hospital. I began this position in May 2016, joining from the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Helsinki. As for NAPI, I am the Project Manager, so am in charge of the day-to-day running of the infrastructure.

2. How do you think NAPI will improve proteomics research within Norway?

First and foremost, we have used a large proportion of the NAPI funding to buy cutting-edge new mass spectrometry instruments for several proteomics core facilities across Norway. These instruments will substantially improve both the capacity and the analytical capabilities of those facilities, and thereby benefit a large number of researchers who want to perform proteomic analyses as a part of their projects.

In addition, I think a major benefit of the NAPI infrastructure will be closer communication and collaboration between various core facilities and research groups with a focus on mass spectrometry and proteomics.

A recent review on the important role for liquid chromatography in the development of single cell proteomics. See Røberg-Larsen et al. (2021).

Since we officially launched last year, we are already meeting more frequently, organising workshops that include multiple nodes/partners, and publishing collaborative work, such as a recent review on single cell proteomics that involved input from partners at three different NAPI nodes. Collectively, these activities will really help to strengthen proteomics research in Norway.


3. What are your research goals outside of running the core facility in Oslo?

I am interested in using mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics to study the human immune system and its response to various infections and diseases.

In recent years we have focussed on improved characterisation of inflammasomes – multiprotein complexes that are key components of the innate immune system and trigger inflammation following microbial infection. We are especially interested in using MS to analyse the signalling mechanisms behind inflammasome-induced extracellular vesicle (EV)-mediated protein secretion, and the role of these EVs in innate immune responses in general.

Dr Nyman's own research involves using MS to study the innate immune system, including the role of inflammasomes in releasing cytokines and triggering inflammation. Image taken from Nyman et al. (2017)

4. What are the pros and cons of running a facility versus doing your own research?

I find running a core facility very interesting; we need to analyze very many different types of samples with different type of mass spec methods, and have a lot of multidisciplinary work on-going where we provide the necessary expertise in proteomics and mass spectrometry.

At the moment, this actually takes most of my time so there is limited opportunity to do my own research, but the collaborative nature of my core facility position means I still get to play an active role in lots of interesting research projects, often with a clinical focus. For example, we are currently involved in multiple on-going projects focusing on proteomic characterization of EVs from patient samples. We recently also contributed to a COVID study where we analysed immune complexes from patients using MS.

5. The facility recently purchased a brand new timsTOF Flex from Bruker. How will this improve the services available to users of the facility?

The new instrument will of course increase our analysis capacity, but it will also make new types of analysis possible (read more about the timsTOF Flex here). It has an extra dimension in the ion separation - ion mobility - which makes separation of molecules even with the same m/z ratio possible.

Further, the new instrument has the capability for MS-based imaging, which is a novel technique enabling untargeted investigations into the spatial distribution of molecular species in a variety of samples. This can be used in a clinical setting, for example in the detection of disease biomarkers from histological samples. MS imaging is currently not available routinely at any university in Norway, but a number of prominent research groups have expressed a strong need for access to IMS.

6. In your opinion, what have been the biggest breakthroughs in the field of proteomics during your career?

When I started working with protein chemistry even the word ‘proteome’ was not invented! The overall development of biological mass spectrometry over the past 25 years has been huge, I can still remember the feeling when I was able to identify a (single) protein using MS for the first time. Nowadays we can routinely identify thousands of proteins from different samples!

7. What has been the greatest personal moment of your career so far?

As mentioned above, the whole development of biological MS and proteomics during my career has been huge, and I have been lucky to be involved in that. Personally for me, I think setting up and utilizing quantitative MS for the first time to study innate immune responses together with my students in Helsinki was very exciting. Getting a paper accepted focusing on subcellular proteomics of human macrophages upon influenza A virus infection felt really good. It was just reward after all the long days, evenings and weekends with a cranky LC-MS/MS instrument, as was common at the time. With today’s advanced mass spectrometers, we would need a fraction of the instrument time.

8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise your colleagues

I follow actively what is happening with the Swedish royal family, Crown Princess Victoria is my absolute favourite! I have even met her once, when she was doing her first official visit to Finland in 1996. She and the King visited our new Biocenter in Helsinki and paid a visit to our lab. There, Victoria was also doing mass spectrometry analysis of insulin using our brand new MALDI-TOF MS instrument.

Published Sep. 16, 2021 2:45 PM - Last modified Sep. 20, 2021 11:21 AM