Close may be good enough for horseshoes and hand grenades, but analyzing proteins requires hard numbers. So Boston-based PerkinElmer Life and Analytical Sciences created its new ProScanArray and ScanArray GX slide scanners for precise protein analysis.
"You only need to know whether DNA is regulated up or down," says Sandra Rasmussen, the company's business manager for functional genomics and proteomics. "But protein analysis requires the exact quantity of the proteins present in the sample." The company's new systems not only include algorithms that make those precise calculations, but "they also reduce variability so you can be sure of the same answer when you run variations on the same analysis a month later," she adds.
Besides enabling researchers to derive hard numbers, the new software improves "spot-finding" so that the scanners find and read slide's "sweet spot" more fully accurately. Also, the new instruments shorten the laser light's path from source to slide, improving sensitivity by 50% by reducing sources of noise that could swamp subtle signals.
The basic GX system includes two lasers, red and green; the ProScan series allows customers a choice of light sources. "If a lab is analyzing DNA now and will add protein or tissue analysis later, it can start with the ProScan series with one laser and upgrade to two, three, or four later," Rasmussen says.
"The new software's greater flexibility is a major improvement," says Aaron Risinger, senior research associate at Epitome Biosystems in Waltham, Mass., who has tested the new equipment. "It used to take us five or six minutes to run a full analysis; now it's less than one." Risinger likes the new instruments' user controls, which are almost identical to those of the company's previous devices. "They've made a seamless transition from the old technology to the new," he says.
Prices for the new systems range from $34,000 to about $100,000 (US), fully equipped with four lasers and a 20-slide autoloader. The ScanArray systems can run fluorescent genomic, proteomic, and tissue-section scans, thus saving labs tens of thousands of dollars in redundant hardware.