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Automated microfluidic device reduces time to screen small organisms for genetic studies
Date:6/23/2008

Genetic studies on small organisms such as worms and flies can now be done more quickly using a new microfluidic device developed by engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The new "lab-on-a-chip" can automatically position, image, determine the phenotype of and sort small animals, such as the worm Caenorhabditis elegans that is commonly used for biological studies.

"Classical genetic approaches require altering genetic information and monitoring changes in a large number of animals, which can be excruciatingly slow and often requires manual manipulations," said Hang Lu, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. "As researchers move from studying single genes to analyzing interactions and networks, studies that require large sample sizes will be critical and this device allows for consistent and reliable operation to rapidly screen many animals."

In the July print issue of the journal Nature Methods, available online June 22, Lu and graduate students Kwanghun Chung and Matthew Crane describe their automated microsystem and initial experimental results. The results show that they can sort small organisms without human intervention based on cellular and subcellular features, or traits, with a high degree of accuracy at a rate of several hundred animals per hour. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Using the microfluidic system is simple. Each small animal is automatically loaded into the microchip. The setup automatically arranges each organism in an identical position in the chip to reduce the processing time and increase throughput.

Once the organism is loaded, it is briefly immobilized by an integrated local temperature control system that cools the animal to approximate four degrees Celsius. Cooling effectively stops the animal's motion and allows repeated imaging of the same organisms be
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Contact: Abby Vogel
avogel@gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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