Spectroscopy specialist Photon Machines (Redmond, Washington, USA) has acquired an exclusive licence to a new protein tagging technique developed by Delaware State University (DSU). The optical technology for multiplexed protein tagging uses Photon Machines’ core laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) technology alongside multi-elemental nanoparticles to provide a tiny multi-element barcode that can be used to tag and identify proteins in solution. Because multiple elements can be detected with LIBS, and because particles can be composed of several elements, multi-element particle tags allow the detection of hundreds of proteins in a single sample, eliminating the need for time-consuming separation of tagged samples before detection.
The technology has applications in biomedical research and health screening, where it is faster and more efficient than the biological methods currently used. Initial research, which is ongoing at DSU, has shown ppm and ppb-level detection of several proteins, and indicates that detection of single protein particles should be possible. One focus of the DSU research group's work has been on biomarkers for ovarian cancer.