Navigation Links
Sorting device for analyzing biological reactions puts the power of a lab in a researcher’s pocket
Date:3/2/2010

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.

"Our finding is not so much a scientific discovery, but the first demonstration of a new technology," says project leader Jeremy Agresti, a former research associate in the lab of co-author David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Department of Physics. "What limits new areas of research in biology and biotechnology is the ability to assay or to do experiments on many different variables in parallel at once."

The team's technology, first reported in the February 8th online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, bypasses conventional limitations through the use of drop-based microfluidics, squeezing tiny capsules of liquid through a series of intricate tubes, each narrower than a single human hair.

"Each microscopic drop can trap an individual cell and thus it becomes like a miniature test tube," explains Amy Rowat, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS. "The drops are coated with a surfactant, or stabilization molecule, that prevents the drops from coalescing with each other and also prevents the contents from sticking to the wall of the drops."

To sort, the system removes inactive and unwanted compounds, dumping the drops into a "bad egg" bin, and guides the others into a "keep" container. Specifically, as the drops flow through the channels they eventually encounter a junction (a two-channel fork). Left alone, the drops will naturally flow towards the path of least fluidic resistance, or the waste channel.

The device identifies the desired drops by using a laser focused on the channel before the fork to read a drop's fluorescence level. The drops with greater intensity of fluorescence (those exhibiting the highest levels of activity) are pulled towards the keep channel by the application of an electrical force, a process known as dielectrophoresis.

"Our concept was to build a miniature laboratory for performing biological experiments quickly and efficiently," explains collaborator Adam Abate, a postdoctoral fellow in applied physics at SEAS. "To do this we needed to construct microfluidic versions of common bench-top tasks, such as isolating cells in a compartment, adding reagents, and sorting the good from the bad. The challenge was to do this with microscopic drops flowing past at thousands per second."

"The sorting process is remarkably efficient and fast. By shrinking down the reaction size to 10 picoliters of volumes, we increased the sorting speed by the same amount," adds Agresti. "In our demonstration with horseradish peroxidase, we evolved and improved an already efficient enzyme by sorting through 100 million variants and choosing the best among them."

In particular, the researchers were struck by the ability to increase the efficiency of an already efficient enzyme to near its theoretical maximum, the diffusion limit, where the enzyme can produce products as quickly as a new substrate can bump into it.

Using conventional means, the sorting process would have taken several years. Such a dramatic reduction of time could be a boon for the burgeoning field of synthetic biology. For example, a biofuels developer could use the device to screen populations of millions of organisms or metabolic pathways to find the most efficient producer of a chemical or fuel. Likewise, scientists could speed up the pace of drug development, determining the best chemical candidate compounds and then evolving them based upon desired properties.

"The high speed of our technique allows us to go through multiple cycles of mutation and screening in a very short time," says Agresti. "This is the way evolution works best. The more generations you can get through, the faster you can make progress."


'/>"/>

Contact: Michael Patrick Rutter
mrutter@seas.harvard.edu
617-496-3815
Harvard University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Sorting the drivers from the passengers in the cancer genome
2. Stitching together lab-on-a-chip devices with cotton thread and sewing needles
3. Ardiem Medical obtains non-exclusive license for neuromodulation devices
4. New ORNL sensor exploits traditional weakness of nano devices
5. Silver nanoparticles may one day be key to devices that keep hearts beating strong and steady
6. Pitt-led team gets $5.6 million contract for heart assist device for infants and toddlers
7. Habit-learning device will lower energy bills under new clean energy cashback scheme
8. New adhesive device could let humans walk on walls
9. Novel NIST connector uses magnets for leak-free microfluidic devices
10. UT Southwestern patient first in North Texas to receive newest-generation heart failure device
11. AFOSRs basic research may lead to revolutionary new devices
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Sorting device for analyzing biological reactions puts the power of a lab in a researcher’s pocket
(Date:4/26/2016)... , April 27, 2016 ... "Global Multi-modal Biometrics Market 2016-2020"  report to their ... , The analysts forecast the global ... of 15.49% during the period 2016-2020.  ... of sectors such as the healthcare, BFSI, transportation, ...
(Date:4/15/2016)... 2016  A new partnership announced today will ... decisions in a fraction of the time it ... high-value life insurance policies to consumers without requiring ... Force Diagnostics, rapid testing (A1C, Cotinine and HIV) ... pressure, weight, pulse, BMI, and activity data) available ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... , April 14, 2016 ... and Malware Detection, today announced the appointment of ... the new role. Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes ... the heels of the deployment of its platform at ... behavioral biometric technology, which discerns unique cognitive and physiological ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016  Blueprint Bio, a ... discoveries to the medical community, has closed its Series ... Matthew Nunez . "We have received a ... the capital we need to meet our current goals," ... provide us the runway to complete validation on the ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016 On Wednesday, June 22, 2016, ... 0.22%; the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.27% lower to ... down 0.17%. Stock-Callers.com has initiated coverage on the following equities: ... (NASDAQ: NKTR ), Aralez Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ... BIND ). Learn more about these stocks by accessing their ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... and technical consulting, provides a free webinar on Performing Quality Investigations: ... 2016 at 12pm CT at no charge. , Incomplete investigations are still a ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016  Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN ) today ... life sciences incubator to accelerate the development of ... space at QB3@953 was created to help high-potential life ... many early stage organizations - access to laboratory infrastructure. ... launched two "Amgen Golden Ticket" awards, providing each winner ...
Breaking Biology Technology: