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UCSD researchers develop 'smart petri dish'

ure analogous to the way that semiconductors transmit electricity through computer chips. By attaching rat liver cells to the polystyrene within the crystals and measuring the scattering of light with a sensitive spectrometer, they were able to detect small changes in the shapes of the cells as they reacted to toxic doses of cadmium chloride and acetaminophen.

"As these cells shrivel up in response to a toxin, they scatter light better, much like fog on a car windshield, allowing us to quickly detect which drugs may have adverse side effects when taken in combination with another," says Sailor. "You're not supposed to drink alcohol when taking acetaminophen, because the combination of the two is much more toxic to your liver than either drug individually. This is known as an adverse drug-drug interaction and it is very expensive and time-consuming to screen a new drug candidate with all the possible combinations of drugs that a patient may be taking. The Smart Petri Dish allows us to perform a large number of such toxicity assays simultaneously, in order to provide an early indication of the particular physiological or pharmacological conditions that need more in-depth study."

"Although we performed these experiments on rat cells, this technology can be easily extended to human cells," says Sangeeta Bhatia, a professor of bioengineering at UCSD now at MIT, who also participated in the study. "This is important because we know that the enzymes that metabolize drugs--the P450 family--are very different in animal and humans. This is one of the reasons many drugs clear animal testing but end up toxic in patients. This type of sensor could help us predict human liver responses without patient exposure."

"Because the Smart Petri Dish gives a continuous readout of cell damage," she adds, "this type of sensor could also be very useful for understanding more about the way environmental toxicants such as water contaminants or viruses like hepatitis
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Source:University of California - San Diego


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