Stanford researchers have developed a new biosensor microchip that could significantly speed up the process of drug development. The microchips, packed with highly sensitive "nanosensors," analyze how proteins bind to one another, a critical step for evaluating the effectiveness and possible side effects of a potential medication.
A single centimeter-sized array of the nanosensors can simultaneously and continuously monitor thousands of times more protein-binding events than any existing sensor. The new sensor is also able to detect interactions with greater sensitivity and deliver the results significantly faster than the present "gold standard" method.
"You can fit thousands, even tens of thousands, of different proteins of interest on the same chip and run the protein-binding experiments in one shot," said Shan Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering, and of electrical engineering, who led the research effort.
"In theory, in one test, you could look at a drug's affinity for every protein in the human body," said Richard Gaster, MD/PhD candidate in bioengineering and medicine, who is the first author of a paper describing the research that was published online this month by Nature Nanotechnology.
The power of the nanosensor array lies in two advances. First, the use of magnetic nanotags attached to the protein being studied such as a medication greatly increases the sensitivity of the monitoring.
Second, an analytical model the researchers developed enables them to accurately predict the final outcome of an interaction based on only a few minutes of monitoring data. Current techniques typically monitor no more than four simultaneous interactions and the process can take hours.
"I think their technology has the potential to revolutionize how we do bioassays," said P.J. Utz, associate professor of medicine (immunology and rheumatology) at Stanford University Medical Center, who
|Contact: Louis Bergeron|