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Faster testing of new pharmaceuticals
Date:1/22/2014

When developing new medications, biologists and pharma- cologists test different active ingredients and chemical compounds. The main purpose is to find out how biological cells react to these substances. To do so, researchers often use a fluorescence microscope that produces digital, holo- graphic images, i.e. computer-generated holograms in which the cells being studied can be viewed in three dimen- sions. The hologram is first created as an optical image, which is then digitized for recording and analysis on the computer. The computer calculates the data needed to display the three-dimensional image of the cells. This method has several advantages. The researchers don't have to use markers to make the cells visible. They can examine the cells without touching them. And the cells can be characterized in vivo scientists refer to this as in vivo testing.

To obtain precise and reliable answers to the question of how the cells react to chemical substances, each cell must be placed in an individual, tiny hollow (well) on a microfluidic chip, i.e. one cell per well. This ensures that the cells are not influenced by the presence of other cells. Another requirement is that the cells must be of the same size, so that their reactions to the active agent can be compared. The problem is that it is difficult to transfer single cells to the tiny wells. Often, the researchers pour them in together with the nutrient solution in which they were grown. This can have two unwanted consequences: firstly that several cells occupy the same well and secondly that the cells are of all different sizes. It can even happen that cells swim out of the wells during the test. The researchers have to take all these factors into account by employing statistical averaging. In other words they have to carry out innumerable measurements and test large numbers of cells in order to obtain a scientifically accurate result an undertaking that can be extremely tedious and time-consuming
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Contact: Stephan Stürwald
stephan.stuerwald@ipt.fraunhofer.de
49-241-890-4439
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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