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The Science of SpaceChris Hartlove

The Science of Space (continued)

A Mass Improvement

Dingyin Tao, PhD
Postdoc, MMI
Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute
PI: Rhoel Dinglasan, PhD

There’s been a welcome new “addition” to Dingyin Tao’s life—a mass spectrometer. “In many ways, a mass spectrometer is like a ‘newborn baby’ who needs to be taken care of very carefully,” says Tao. “We need enough space, no dust, a consistent temperature and no direct sunshine.”

It’s worth the effort. With Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation support, Tao is working with principal investigators Rhoel Dinglasan and Sungano Mharakurwa to develop a malaria test using saliva rather than blood samples (which are unpopular in areas where blood taboos exist). Success is by no means guaranteed, but step one is to identify a protein that could signal the presence of Plasmodium falciparum—the deadliest malaria parasite—in saliva samples from asymptomatic carriers. Tao relies on the new spectrometer to characterize the proteins in his samples.

Before the renovation, Tao shuttled samples to the medical school for analysis, risking that they degrade en route. Now Tao not only conducts his own mass spec research in-house but assists collaborators from as far away as Australia.

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