A promising strategy of early diagnosis is the detection of biological signatures (molecular biomarkers) from readily available body fluids, such as blood. However, the onset of most human diseases cannot be univocally identified on the basis of a single biomarker. Considerable attention has been devoted to the development of proteomic methods for the quantitative and simultaneous detection and identification of “signature profiles” constituted by multiple protein and peptide biomarkers using mass spectrometry (MS). A critical aspect of the development of MS-based proteomics and peptidomics is the extraordinarily broad assortment of molecular species in blood, with concentrations ranging over more than ten orders of magnitude. This dynamic complexity limits the detection of disease-related peptides present in trace amounts within a large background of very abundant and non-relevant proteins.

The discovery of mesostructured materials in the 1990s spurred a large boom of research on the preparation, characterization, and morphological control of surfactant-templated mesoporous materials. Since then, these materials have been further developed for a wide range of applications such as catalysis, filtration, sensing, low-k dielectric materials, environmental responsive materials, and drug delivery. Nonionic triblock copolymers have been employed as template surfactants to produce mesoporous silica with organized pore structures and a wide range of pore sizes.

Multiple mesoporous selection domains differentiated by their physicochemical properties can be integrated in a single chip. The chip can be used to sequester desired low-molecular-weight fractions of biomolecules present in low concentration in complex biological fluids such as serum, plasma, and whole blood, eliminating the overwhelming background of high-concentration proteins. The chip can operate with extraordinary rapidity without sample pre-processing. The chip can be integrated in a fluidic system or an automation system. It can be used as highly reproducible, selective enrichment substrate for existing proteomic analysis equipment.

The proteomic chip comprising multiple nano/mesoporous selection domains generates an unprecedented multiplicity of peaks for cross-correlation and multivariate profile analysis dendograms. The correlation between physical and chemical features (porosity, pore size and structure, and surface properties) of the chips and the biomolecular fractions can be established.

This work was done by Mauro Ferrari, Xuewu Liu, Ali Bouamrani, and Ennio Tasciotti of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the JSC Technology Transfer Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-24595-1/6-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from this issue here.

Read more articles from the archives here.