With support from the Chemical Measurement and Imaging Program in the Division of Chemistry and Office of Multidisciplinary Activities, Dr. Moini and his group at Smithsonian Institution will address the need for tracking deterioration markers and dating of proteinaceous specimens for cultural heritage purposes. High throughput analytical techniques with high sensitivity, information-rich chemical detection and low sample consumption will be developed, and several categories of such markers will be validated. For a proof of concept, silk and wool textiles, as well as collagen and leather specimens, will be used as examples of museums' proteinaceous specimens. Specifically, this proposal proposes to study the three factors that track protein degradation at a molecular level - amino acid racemization (AAR), protein deamidation, and protein fragmentation (truncation) - using state-of-the-art separation and mass spectrometry techniques. Using a series of well-dated silk and wool textiles, spanning in age from approximately present day to 2,500 years ago, and collagen specimens from present to ~30,000 BP, the biological markers of deterioration will be identified as a reliable means of dating. To increase throughput and reduce sample consumption, ultrafast capillary electrophoresis mass spectrometry will be developed to take the place of conventional CE, reducing analysis time by an order of magnitude to about one minute. The techniques developed in this project may be applicable to other museums' proteinaceous specimens, including paint binder, paper, glue, proteins-based adhesives, etc. The development of reliable biological clocks has a wide range of practical applications including: food safety and biological dating of food supplies in the food industry; disease biomarker detection in hospitals and doctors' offices; and detection of biological contaminants in the environment.
The investigator will be engaged in outreach programs and demonstrations at local middle and high schools through his institution. The goal of these activities is to involve the broader community with the conservation process. Graduate and post graduate interns including underrepresented minority students will be encouraged to begin their research at the Smithsonian Institution.