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Collaboration at EMSL produces innovative mass spectrometer

The future of proteomics is in good hands with one of the most powerful and versatile mass spectrometers being developed by scientists and engineers from the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

The high-throughput Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FTICR) mass spectrometer and automated liquid chromatography (LC) system is a breakthrough in mass spectrometry capable of improving the understanding of protein production, function and interactions at the cellular level and beyond.

Proteomics is the study of proteins in the human genome that are made and change within a cell over time as the cells respond to disease or changes in their surrounding environment.

"The success of the high- throughput FTICR mass spectrometer and the automation system heralds the next generation of proteomics research," said Harold Udseth, technical leader of EMSL's High Performance Mass Spectrometry Facility.

Mass spectrometers are used to weigh atoms and molecules. This can be done with a precision of one part in five million, which, when applied to the human cell, will enable scientists to learn a great deal about how the cell works. "And once scientists fully understand how human cells work, they can begin to work on methodically solving problems involving things that go wrong in a cell such as cancer," Udseth said.

"The signature of the newest, high-throughput FTICR is the high resolution and high mass measurement accuracy of the system," Udseth continued. "It does better than other mass spectrometers available in measuring the mass of peptides (small structural units obtained by cutting proteins into pieces). It offers such sensitivity and precision that scientists can detect hundreds of thousands of peptide species in a single analysis." Identifying peptides is an important part of proteomics research to determine the role that proteins play in cells and living systems. Researchers expect that more than a million
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Contact: Greg Koller
greg.koller@pnl.gov
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
30-May-2003


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