Protein sequencing promises to significantly advance research and medicine, but is expensive and time-consuming. Simultaneous measurement of electrical signals and fluorescence should enable rapid, cost-effective protein sequencing.
Proteins are folded chain molecules consisting of 21 different amino acids, the characteristic sequence of each of which largely determines their form and function. The analysis of these sequences is therefore of fundamental importance in research and medicine. However, protein sequencing is significantly more expensive and time-consuming than that of DNA, which consists of only 4 building blocks. The nEOdiag project addresses this challenge by simultaneously reading out protein sequences electrically and via fluorescence using so-called nanopores.
A current signal is measured electrically when amino acid chains enter and leave such a pore of molecular dimensions through which ions flow. In addition, the inner pore wall is provided with fluorescent molecules whose light signal is characteristically altered by the amino acids interacting directly with them in a very confined space. The correlation of both signals should enable protein sequencing with nanopores for the first time. The practical implementation of this idea requires microelectronic innovations for highly parallel, multimodal data acquisition, AI-based algorithms for sensor fusion-based recognition of protein sequences, and microsystems engineering innovations in miniaturization, parallelization, and integration.