Nemes Group Pioneers Tool for Eavesdropping on Neurons

The ultrasensitive high-resolution mass spectrometer in the Nemes lab. Initial funding to build the instrument was provided by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. Photo by Nathaniel Underland.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a technological breakthrough in analytical neuroscience: the ability to profile the proteins inside of a single live neuron. The scientific advancement will improve understanding of the brain during normal development and advance diagnostics and therapeutics for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The technical milestone was achieved with a custom-built ultrasensitive high-resolution mass spectrometer. Built in-house, the instrument features a sensitivity sufficient to detect hundreds of different proteins in individually characterized neurons in a live brain section. The breakthrough was featured on the January 25, 2022 cover of Analytical Chemistry.

“This paper expands the analytical toolbox of neuroscience,” said Peter Nemes, the corresponding author of the study and Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “It lays the groundwork for a proteomic-driven classification of cell types in the brain.”

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