Researchers from the University of Michigan and University of Fribourg call their method "5-D fingerprinting." It involves the use of a substrate with a nanopore that's only 10 to 30 nanometers wide so only one molecule can pass through at a time. That molecule causes fluctuations in the setup's (which you can see below) electric current as it passes through the nanopore. Scientists and doctors can then measure that current to get the protein's "unique five-dimensional signature."
David Sept, a team member and U of Michigan professor in biomedical engineering, explains:
"Imagine the challenge of identifying a specific person based only on their height and weight. That's essentially the challenge we face with current techniques. Imagine how much easier it would be with additional descriptors like gender, hair color and clothing. That's the kind of new information 5-D fingerprinting provides, making it much easier to identify specific proteins."
In the future, the researchers want to use what they learned to create a device medical professionals can use to instantly measure proteins in blood and other samples. That can help doctors conjure up personalized medical advice and treatment regimens proven to work for each particular patient's condition.