05-025: Identification of Analytes on Array of Reporter Droplets

Researchers at George Mason University's National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases have advanced a new principle of analyte identification that will aid in the detection and recognition of toxic impurities in environmental samples.

Most bioanalytical procedures are based on the recognition of analytes through the use of natural specific probe molecules such as enzymes, antibodies, or complementary DNA. These molecules have a limited shelf life and require special storage conditions. Another principle of analyte recognition utilizes spectral characteristics (NMR, IR, MS-MS and other) to distinguish between molecules. These physical methods require the use of expensive equipment and trained personnel.

The researchers at GMU have developed a method in which proteins and other biological molecules are recognized through studying differences in the morphology, size, and distribution of crystalline and amorphous dry residues (referred to as the drying crystallization pattern, or DCP) in an array of micro-droplets. The micro-droplets contain predetermined amounts of crystal-forming organic compounds (referred to as reporters) that are added to the sample to be analyzed. Based on the level of changes resulting from the addition of the sample (amino acids that demonstrate no or only small changes are assigned a value of"O", while those that demonstrate drastic, unambiguous changes are assigned a value of" 1") a binary code for each protein is established that will serve as that protein's "signature". After the signature has been established it can be used to identify proteins, protein toxins, and pathogens in a variety of environmental and biological samples.

This new method of analyte identification is unusual in that it not only improves an already existing method and technology, but also establishes a new principle. As such, it can be used in a wide variety of applications including the creation of:

- New methods of detecting pathogens in the environment.
- New means for characterizing proteins and other biological and organic molecules by their codes.
- New methods of monitoring changes in the complex environmental samples and in biological fluids.

Market Significance:

As this technology has multiple applications, numerous industries and organizations would benefit from its use, specifically those involved in the development and use ofbio-analytical procedures, medical and engineering biodefense and infectious diseases defense.


- Provides a new approach to characterize toxins and other biological molecules without the use of fragile biological probe molecules or expensive physical devices.
- The technology can be easily multiplexed.
- The technology can be easily miniaturized.