AUSTIN, Texas - Dr. Jennifer Brodbelt, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The University of Texas at Austin, has received a $734,068 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a new method for rapidly screening blood samples for biomarkers.
Biomarkers are small molecules that indicate the presence of a particular physiological condition, typically a disease. The new method, if successful, could prove useful not just for identifying markers of specific diseases such as cancer or heart disease, but for discovering broader metabolic patterns correlated with conditions such as aging or obesity.
"There are technologies right now that are very effective at separating and analyzing the different compounds in a blood sample, but they tend to be relatively slow," says Brodbelt, the principal investigator of the grant. "It makes it very hard to do analyses of lots of samples. What we're developing is a chip-based method, where entire classes of compounds are captured on the chips and then all the compounds are released and analyzed by mass spectrometry in just a few seconds."
Although the technology, if successful, should be useful in searching for biomarkers in all sorts of conditions, Brodbelt and her collaborators from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, Drs. Lynn and Frank Guziec, are focusing on patterns that correlate with aging.
"We're trying to develop maps that can correlate the progression of aging with metabolites that might be circulating in your blood," says Brodbelt. "These could be small molecules that increase in quantity as you age, or actually change in composition as one ages."
The new method, says Brodbelt, involves three basic stages.
The first stage is the coating of different regions of a mesh chip with a variety of "capture agents," which chemically bind to specific compounds in a blood sample. A burst from an ultraviolet light then severs the chemical bonds
|Contact: Jennifer Brodbelt|
University of Texas at Austin