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New protein imaging method paves ways for next generation biomaterials and tissue analysis

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Scientists have established a new method to image proteins that could lead to new discoveries in disease through biological tissue and cell analysis and the development of new biomaterials that can be used for the next generation of drug delivery systems and medical devices.

Scientists from the University of Nottingham in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and The National Physical laboratory have used the state-of-the-art 3D OrbiSIMS instrument to facilitate the first matrix- and label-free in situ assignment of intact proteins at surfaces with minimal sample preparation. Their research has been published today in Nature Communications.

The University of Nottingham is the first University in the world to own a 3D OrbiSIMS instrument. It is able to facilitate an unprecedented level of mass spectral molecular analysis for a range of materials (hard and soft matter, biological cells and tissues). The facility in Nottingham also has high pressure freezing cryo-preparation facilities that enable biological samples to be maintained close to their native state as frozen-hydrated to complement the more commonly applied but more disruptive freeze drying and sample fixation. When the surface sensitivity, high mass/spatial resolution are combined with a depth profiling sputtering beam, the instrument becomes an extremely powerful tool for 3D chemical analysis as demonstrated in this recent work.

Dr David Scurr from the University of Nottingham’s School of Pharmacy led this latest study and was supported by CDT in Advanced Therapeutics and Nanomedicines PhD student Anna Kotowska. David said: “The design and innovation of the next generation of biomaterials is underpinned by the ability to accurately characterise biological tissue and materials. The challenge for scientists in this area has been unpicking the chemical complexity of such systems. This approach to protein analysis has been demonstrated using extreme examples to illustrate its sensitivity and specificity by chemically mapping a protein monolayer (protein biochip) and distribution of specific protein in human skin (complex multi-layered biological system) respectively. With the ability to chemically map proteins in this way we are a step closer to being able to understand fundamental biological processes and develop more effective systems for targeting drugs and providing coatings for medical devices.”

The team in Nottingham have already applied biomaterials research to create a new type of urinary catheter in partnership with Camstent Ltd that is coated in a bacteria resistant material discovered by scientists from the University of Nottingham.

The research we are now able to do using this instrument is paving the way for step changes in how materials can be used in medicine to better treat disease and illness. The Catheter coating we have developed in partnership with Camstent has gone all the way from the discovery of a new class of materials that no one could have predicted all the way to clinical trials and is a great example of the application of this type of research.
Professor Morgan Alexander, Director of the EPSRC Programme Grant in Next Generation Biomaterials Discovery and the 3D OrbiSIMS facility

Paula Mendes, Professor of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at the University of Birmingham, adds: “With these new capabilities to characterise proteins at surfaces comes also new exciting opportunities to engineer functional materials with predictable protein interactions for biosensor technology.”

Story credits

More information is available from David.scurr@nottingham.ac.uk or Jane Icke, Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5751 or jane.icke@nottingham.ac.uk

 

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The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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