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Technique monitors thousands of molecules simultaneously

A chemist at Washington University in St. Louis is making molecules the new-fashioned way ?selectively harnessing thousands of minuscule electrodes on a tiny computer chip that do chemical reactions and yield molecules that bind to receptor sites. Kevin Moeller, Ph.D., Washington University professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, is doing this so that the electrodes on the chip can be used to monitor the biological behavior of up to 12,000 molecules at the same time.

The work is motivated by a desire to map the three-dimensional requirements of biological receptors on cell surfaces. Typically, receptors bind small molecules through a lock and key mechanism where the molecule is the key and the receptor the lock. The nature and shape of molecules that serve as keys tells about the binding requirements of the receptor. Traditionally, probing a receptor this way has been done by making a library of molecules, treating it with the receptor, washing away any excess receptor that has not found a key, and then treating the bound receptors with an antibody that recognizes the receptor and is tagged to a fluorescent label. The washing step risks removing a bound receptor if it does not bind the molecular key strongly enough. But, with an electrochemically addressable computer chip, provided in great abundance by one of his sponsor's, CombiMatrix in Seattle, Moeller saw a way of probing the binding of a library with a receptor without the need for washing by putting each member of the molecular library by an electrode that can then be used to monitor its behavior.

The electrochemically addressable chips being used represent a new environment for synthetic organic chemistry, changing the way chemists and biomedical researchers make molecules, build molecular libraries and understand the mechanisms by which molecules bind to receptor sites.

"We believe we can move most of modern synthetic organic chemistry to this electrochemically addressable ch
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Source:Washington University in St. Louis


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