‘Cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart failure, diabetes and many other disorders are associated with unique proteins that can act as biomarkers, giving away the presence of disease. Detecting these proteins will help researchers diagnose diseases earlier and even understand the causes. But the current laboratory standard for sequencing proteins, mass spectrometry, can detect a protein only if there are about a million copies of it. It also has a low “throughput,” because only a few experiments can be conducted at a time compared with the many thousands possible with techniques such as gene sequencing.

Next-generation gene sequencing has made analyzing the entire genome of any organism fast, accurate and affordable. More than six years ago, molecular biosciences professor Edward Marcotte began wondering whether DNA-sequencing-like technology could be used to study proteins. Because the method involves attaching chemical tags to the proteins being analyzed, Marcotte recruited UT professor Eric Anslyn, an organic chemist. The researchers used supercomputer clusters at UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center.

With this new method, “single-molecule fluorosequencing,” researchers can sequence millions of protein molecules simultaneously in a single sample. Marcotte believes future refinements could boost the number into the billions and allow researchers to search cell by cell to understand how a tumor evolves from a small mass of identical cells to a soup of genetically divergent cells, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

Along with Jagannath Swaminathan, Marcotte and Anslyn share a patent with UT Austin on the underlying technology. And with Talli Somekh, Angela Bardo and Zack Simpson, the team has founded Erisyon Inc. to commercialize the technology.’

Top UT Inventions and Innovations of 2019
Source: UT News

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