Sunday, August 7, 2011

Research Reflections

     We are coming to the last week of our work on the IRIS and MALSI-TOF project. It is important to note that this is not the last week that work is being done on the project. Undergraduate and graduate students of Dr. Goldberg and Dr. McComb will be continuing the studies on this topic.
     The most important aspect for people to realize about research is that it is a continuing investigation. We are trying to work in an area that has not been studied before. We develop theories explaining what we think should happen. The research is to see if the theory matches up against the reality.
     In our research, we have found that the MALDI system is a good way to identify the composition of the materials even if there are very small amounts of the material in the sample. However, we need to refine the testing techniques utilizing the IRIS system to identify how much of the different proteins are present in the interactive system.
     We have discerned that there are difficulties in maintaining a consistent polymer coating over the oxide level in our chip. As we work on this project, we will be looking at alternative chip designs. During the upcomng week, we will focus our efforts on a design that Julian Anding came up with that will raise the polymer spot above the HMDS level. Hopefully, this will make it easier to maintain the polymer consistency as the antibody and antigen levels are added to it.
     The second area that we will focus on is to derive an improved method to clean the sample after the addition of the antibody and antigen levels so that we will not wash off materials measured in one level as we move onto the next. Following the antigen placement, we will be reducing the amount of washing done with the distilled water. Hopefully, this will help us to maintain the antibody material on the sample as the antigen is added.
     During our five weeks of work, we have been able to derive data which shows where the measurement difficulties have appeared. We have had too little time to work through all of the possible solutions to the problem and to test our solutionsmultiple times. Without this evidence, we cannot say that we have found a viable solution. The other piece of the research process that has been important is to only change one aspect of the test procedure at a time so that we can make our improvements. There were times when we wanted to jump ahead by making multiple changes in our test procedure. We then had to slow ourselves down so that we could maintain our certainty about what factors needed to be changed.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Results of PSA samples

     Over the course of the last week, we have been trying to use the IRIS and MODI-TOF to make measurements of the PSA antigen. PSA is used to signal the possibility of prostrate cancer. Unfortunately, it has only about a 50% chance of being correct in making the proper diagnosis. We hope to make a better prediction of the diagnosis with more accurat measurements.
     We have had difficulty in making accurate measurements for two reasons. First, the polymer base to which the antibody attaches is not consistent in maintaining its leel of material. Second, as we clean off the antibody and antigen levels, we found that the levels of antibody and antigenchange.
     We spent much time trying different chip configurations in order to maintain the polymer, antibody and antigen quantities. Unfortunately, we couldn't make accurate measurements with the IRIS that woul let us dtermine the amounts of antibody and antigen involved in each bonding event.
     However, we were able to use the MALDI-TOF to show accurately that there were PSA antigen components which were singly, doubly, and triply charged during the MALDI laser interaction with the PSA.
     We have developed a new chip design and cleaning process to use in the preparation of our new chip. We plan to test this new design and process within the next week.