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Protea Biosciences to Develop GWU's LAESI MS Technology for Research Laboratories

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Protea Biosciences announced this week that it has concluded an exclusive, worldwide license agreement with George Washington University for commercial rights to a new mass spectrometry technology for in situ tissue and cell analysis called laser ablation electrospray analysis, or LAESI.

In a statement, Protea said it will develop instrumentation and software "that will bring the capabilities of the LAESI technology to research laboratories worldwide, beginning in 2011."

Developed in the laboratory of Akos Vertes, professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology at George Washington University and the founder and co-director of the university's W.M. Keck Institute for Proteomics Technology, LAESI allows for the direct analysis of tissues and cells, enabling the identification, localization and quantification of proteins and metabolites with limited sample preparation, the company said.

In a paper published this week in PLoS ONE, researchers led by Vertes used the technology to directly detect changes in levels of metabolites in cells infected by human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 and type 3 as well as cells expressing the oncogenes TAX1 and TAX3.

"LAESI represents a minimally invasive and minimally destructive approach to chemical analysis, which means that dynamic, even living cells or tissues can be probed for their molecular composition not only in three dimensions, but also with time," Vertes said in a statement. "Small sample consumption of the LAESI analysis means that much of the sample remains available for additional investigation."

The PLoS ONE paper did, however, cite potential limitations of the platform, including its reliance on samples' water content for analysis – meaning that samples without intrinsic water must be wetted for analysis – and the existence of matrix effects that could cause low-abundance metabolites to be missed or masked.

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