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Purdue proves concept of using nano-materials for drug discovery

olecules into and out of the cells, contain a variety of proteins, some of which are directly responsible for cancer's ability to resist anti-tumor chemotherapy drugs. These proteins act as tiny pumps that quickly remove chemotherapy drugs from tumor cells, making the treatment less effective. Cancer cells exposed to chemotherapy drugs produce a disproportionately large number of the pumps, causing the cells to become progressively more resistant to anticancer drugs.

Engineers and scientists in the Purdue center are trying to find drugs that deactivate the pumps, which would make the chemotherapy drugs more effective. The researchers are developing synthetic cell membranes to mimic the real thing and then plan to use those membranes to create chips containing up to 1 million test chambers. Each chamber would be covered with a membrane containing the proteins, and the chambers could then be used to search for drugs that deactivate the pumps, Lee said.

Such an advanced technology could be used to quickly screen millions of untested drug compounds that exist in large pharmaceutical "libraries." The chips could dramatically increase the number of experiments that are possible with a small amount of protein.

"It's been very hard to study these proteins because they are difficult to produce in large quantities," Lee said. "The devices we have created offer the promise of making chips capable of running thousands of reactions with the same amount of protein now needed to run only about 10 reactions."

Findings being reported in the paper detail how researchers created the device with the same "microfabrication" techniques used to make computer chips. The reactors range in diameter from about 400 to 60 microns, or millionths of a meter. Human hairs are about 100 microns wide.

"You can think of it as a micro-petri dish for studying biochemical reactions," Lee said.

The alumina contains pores smaller than 100 nanometers, and the
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Source:Purdue University


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