New tech to improve analysis of proteins

PhD candidate Milad Dagher, Professor David Juncker and their colleagues from McGill University has developed a new technology that has the potential to modernise protein analysis, giving a fast, cheap and high capacity tool to hospitals and research labs.

Biological markers i.e. proteins found in blood are key to the clinicians and scientists when it comes to studying a person’s health. They can even point out if the chest pain the patient is feeling is because of a cardiac arrest or an early sign of cancer.

Even with more than 20,000 proteins in our body, current tests still target one single protein at a time. The new technique however, can detect hundreds of protein with just one blood sample.

Explained in Nature Nanotechnology, the new, enhanced system can barcode micro beads using multicolour fluorescent dyes. This will lead up to 500 diverse coloured micro-beads, enabling the detection of markers, parallel with the same solution. For example, a blue barcode can be used to detect marker 1, a red barcode to detect marker 2, and so on. Cytometer, a laser based instrument counts the proteins that stick to various coloured beads.

Up until now, while the analysis method described above was available, the interference amongst multicoloured dyes has limited ability to produce the right colours. But the new algorithm allows the generation of different colours of micro-beads with high precision, like a colour wheel.

“Current technologies hold a major trade-off between the number of proteins that can be measured at once, and the cost and accuracy of a test”, said Dagher. “This means that large-scale studies, such as clinical trials, are underpowered because they tend to fall back on tried-and-true platforms with limited capabilities.”

Now, the team is hoping to use its new platform to improve the analysis of proteins and most of their upcoming work aims at maintaining accurate detection of proteins on an increased scale.


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