A research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a device that has the potential to significantly reduce the time for drug development. The device is based on Georgia Tech’s AMUSE (Array of Micromachined Ultra Sonic Electrospray) technology, that presents proteins for spectrometric analysis in nanodroplets:
“The device has the potential to completely change the landscape of this field,” said Andrei Fedorov, an associate professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech who leads the project. Fedorov’s collaborators on the project include Professor F.L. Degertekin from the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Professor F.M. Fernandez from the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
The device is a critical component of a mass spectrometer, an instrument that can detect proteins present even in ultra-small concentrations by measuring the relative masses of ionized atoms and molecules. Mass spectrometers can provide a complete protein profile and essentially make proteomics, the study of how proteins are produced and interact within an organ, cell or tissue, possible.
“You need to be able to take a blood sample, pass it through a system and figure out the complete protein profile of the human plasma. It’s an extremely technology-intensive process and you need to have a technology to do this kind of testing quickly and inexpensively,” Fedorov said.
But before the mass spectrometer can analyze a sample, molecules must first be converted to gas-phase charged ions through electrospray ionization (ESI), a process that produces ions by evaporating charged droplets obtained through spraying or bubbling.
Georgia Tech’s AMUSE (Array of Micromachined Ultra Sonic Electrospray) technology has several key advantages over currently available electrospray methods. In AMUSE, the sample aerosolization and protein charging processes are separated, giving AMUSE the unique ability to operate at low voltages with a wide range of solvents. In addition, AMUSE is a nanoscale ion source and drastically lowers the required sample size by improving sample use.
Also important, AMUSE is a “high-throughput” microarray device, meaning that it can analyze many more samples at a time than a conventional electrospray device.
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