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Mass Spectrometers Identify Possible Link between Tyrannosaurus Rex and Modern Chickens

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., the world leader in serving science, today announced that Harvard Medical School (HMS) is using a range of its mass spectrometry instrumentation for cutting-edge targeted proteomics applications. Scientists from North Carolina State and Harvard Universities, along with John M. Asara Ph.D., director of the mass spectrometry core facility at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, have used a Thermo Scientific LTQ™ linear ion trap and LTQ Orbitrap XL™ to extract and sequence tiny pieces of collagen protein from dinosaurs.

The sequences from a 68 million-year old Tyrannosaurus Rex and a 160,000 to 600,000 year old mastodon are the oldest to ever be reported. The protein fragments were compared to peptide/protein sequences in existing databases, leading the researchers to propose a link between the T. rex and current day chickens and the mastodon with modern elephants. Recently the Harvard team has been able to place the T. rex on the animal kingdom’s phylogenetic tree using molecular evidence.

John Asara (who is also an instructor in pathology at HMS) and his colleagues at BIDMC provide the Longwood Medical Area and other researchers with proteomics services. They use mass spectrometry to develop proteomics-based strategies for identifying novel signaling proteins and modifications of functional significance to cancer pathways. The mass spectrometry techniques he has developed for sequencing proteins in human tumors using the LTQ linear ion trap and LTQ Orbitrap XL have also been applicable to his work on fossilomics (the analysis of fossil bone proteins from extinct organisms).

Asara credits the Thermo Scientific instrumentation with providing the sensitivity, ultra high mass accuracy and resolution required by these challenging applications. “The LTQ increased our throughput and depth of analyses,” he said. “Additionally, the LTQ Orbitrap XL has done wonders for sorting out minor sequence discrepancies. With the LTQ Orbitrap XL, all forms of proteomics analysis are possible from qualitative analysis to quantitative analysis through stable isotope labeling, as well as label-free methods.”

Both Asara’s cancer research and fossilomics analyses benefit from the advanced Thermo Scientific MS technology. “The two technological advances that stand out with my current instrumentation are the linear trap with dual ejection to two different multipliers, which substantially increases sensitivity and scan speed, as well as the Orbitrap’s capability for high resolution accurate mass measurements,” Asara said. “Additionally the HCD collision cell on the LTQ Orbitrap XL allows for extremely high MS/MS mass accuracy and resolution, in addition to acquiring very low molecular weight fragment ions.”

For more information on mass spectrometry, click here.

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