Small, fast, cheap, and automated microfluidic chips are cutting the cost of research and drug development. A team at UCLA has developed a chip that can screen for binding of many drugs in parallel against drug targets such as enzymes.
A team of UCLA chemists, biologists and engineers collaborated on the technology, which is based on microfluidics — the utilization of miniaturized devices to automatically handle and channel tiny amounts of liquids and chemicals invisible to the eye. The chemical reactions were performed using in situ click chemistry, a technique often used to identify potential drug molecules that bind tightly to protein enzymes to either activate or inhibit an effect in a cell, and were analyzed using mass spectrometry.
This chip can do over 1000 chemical reactions at once to check for inhibitors of an enzyme.
While traditionally only a few chemical reactions could be produced on a chip, the research team pioneered a way to instigate multiple reactions, thus offering a new method to quickly screen which drug molecules may work most effectively with a targeted protein enzyme. In this study, scientists produced a chip capable of conducting 1,024 reactions simultaneously, which, in a test system, ably identified potent inhibitors to the enzyme bovine carbonic anhydrase.
The 1,024 chemical reactions were all done in parallel in a few hours. Next the scientists intend to develop automated means to measure the results.
A thousand cycles of complex processes, including controlled sampling and mixing of a library of reagents and sequential microchannel rinsing, all took place on the microchip device and were completed in just a few hours. At the moment, the UCLA team is restricted to analyzing the reaction results off-line, but in the future, they intend to automate this aspect of the work as well.
The cost cutting and experiment acceleration that come from microfluidic chips lead me to expect a big acceleration in the rate of many advance for many biomedical research problems. There's an obvious parallel here with smaller, faster, and cheaper computer chips. Small mass-produced chips cut costs and speed progress.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2009 August 04 10:41 PM Biotech Advance Rates|