CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 2, 2010 – Fictional candy maker Willy Wonka called his whimsical device to sort good chocolate eggs from bad, an eggucator. Likewise, by determining what enzymes and compounds to keep and which to discard, scientists are aiming to find their own golden eggs: more potent drugs and cleaner sources of energy.
Toward that end, Harvard researchers and a team of international collaborators demonstrated a new microfluidic sorting device that rapidly analyzes millions of biological reactions. Smaller than an iPod Nano, the device analyzes reactions a 1,000-times faster and uses 10 million-fold less volumes of reagent than conventional state-of-the-art robotic methods.
The scientists anticipate that the invention could reduce screening costs by 1 million-fold and make directed evolution, a means of engineering tailored biological compounds, more commonplace in the lab.
The tubes in it are narrower than a human hair. Imagine future generations of microfluidic devices usable by non-scientists. Wondering if you have a bacterial or viral infection? You'll have a device that will figure that out for you without your going to a doctor. Parents who want to forecast how fast little Jill or Johnnie will get over a fever will be able to get an instant diagnosis and probable duration of each cold and sore throat.
While personal microfluidic devices will be pretty cool and very useful the biggest benefits from microfluidics will come in research labs. Microfluidics is starting to do for biological sciences what silicon microcircuitry has been and continues to do for the computer industry (i.e. massive fast moving revolution lasting decades). I am optimistic about the development of full body rejuvenation therapies mostly due to advances in microfluidics and other biological assay and manipulation microdevices. They work faster with higher sensitivity, cost less, and achieve a much higher degree of automation.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2010 March 07 07:11 PM Biotech Microfluidics|