Detection and identification of a broad band of chemical species is a hallmark of mass spectrometry. The specific, accurate mass of ions formed in the ionization source and measured in the mass analyzer gives a mechanism for identification of the analyte. Characteristic fragmentation of the molecular species provides additional information that enhances specificity. Thus, mass spectrometry is considered one of the gold standards for identifying chemical compounds. In recent decades, the applicability of mass spectrometry has been extended to the study of large biological molecules. The advent of advanced biological mass spectrometry techniques such as electrospray ionization (ESI) and matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) has resulted in the ability to detect and identify large biological molecules, characteristic of many key bacterial metabolites and microorganisms such as virus, bacteria and fungi. Our team has a long history of the use of the MALDI technique coupled to miniaturized time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometers to create biological identifiers that move mass spectrometry out of the lab and into the field.
This effort will augment existing capability to automatically collect, process, detect and identify a wide range of biological contaminants in air, water and on surfaces. For this application, Zeteo proposes to develop the Zeteo Space Environment Microbial Monitoring System (zSEMMS) a radical redesign of existing zTADS system to meet size, weight and power (SWAP) requirements for NASA applications. In addition to directly monitoring airborne microorganisms in the spacecraft, zSEMMS will incorporate an ability to collect and analyze water and surface samples. Because MALDI Mass Spectrometry signatures derive directly from the genome of the organism or toxin producing organism, it has outstanding specificity and sensitivity for both microorganisms and toxins.
Primary zSEMMS application include continuous, rapid monitoring of occupied crew spaces and testing prior to occupation. The system can either be permanently installed on a spacecraft or deployed when need and removed. The sensitive nature of the instrument could also facilitate use in detecting contamination in clean rooms, laboratories or other NASA facilities in which biological contamination could put a mission at risk.
Zeteo Tech is commercializing zTADS to address critical unmet Biodefense requirements and the capabilities developed in this effort will extend zTADS to additional sample matrices. Zeteo is also developing next generation MALDI systems for rapid diagnosis of disease from breath, with a focus on pre-symptomatic detection of infectious disease.