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Tiny Tech, Big Story

It seems people just can't get enough NEMS-MS.

For those of you who haven't been keeping up, that's short for nanoelectromechanical systems-based mass spectrometry — a technology using nanoscale resonators for detection of analytes like proteins and protein complexes.

Last week, Caltech scientists published a paper in Nature Nanotechnology detailing a proof-of-concept study in which they used the method to measure single IgM antibodies in real-time.

Since then, their research has been picked up as a story not only by specialty publications like our sister publication ProteoMonitor and Science, but also by The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

The technology detects molecules by tracking the changes in resonant frequency that occur when molecules adsorb to the resonator surface. "If you pluck a violin string it will vibrate at some frequency," Michael Roukes, the Caltech researcher leading the effort, tells The New York Times. "So when a particle arrives on the resonator the frequency changes, and we're measuring that change."

NEMS-MS has significant implications for proteomics, offering potentially simpler workflows and greater dynamic range of detection than conventional mass spec. And while it will likely take years for Roukes and his team to refine and package the technology into a broadly useful instrument, it doesn't appear they'll have any problem stirring up interest if and when they do.

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