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Interdisciplinary research team developing novel drug detection technology
Date:11/11/2009

earch for signatures of biological warfare agents that could be built into field detectors. In addition, the researchers propose using it to analyze biopsy material from cancer patients to identify the most effective chemotherapy agent for each individual.

"With this system we are not limited to one type of molecule," said McLean, an assistant professor of chemistry and expert on ion mass spectrometry. "We can look at all the biomolecules that are consumed or secreted by the cells nucleic acids, proteins, fats and sugars and this will give us a comprehensive view of how the cells are responding."

In order to achieve these ambitious goals, the researchers are constructing a new class of instrument that acts as a robot scientist that can rapidly run thousands of virtual experiments and hundreds of actual experiments per day without human intervention.

The brain of the system is a self-learning software program developed by Hod Lipson, associate professor of computer science at Cornell University. His program will directly control the instrument, which consists of a robot-controlled microfluidics chamber, an automated fluorescent microscope and a device called an ion mobility mass spectrometer that can identify millions of biomolecules at one time.

White blood cells obtained with a pinprick are placed in the microfluidic chamber, which can keep them alive and healthy for a period of several days. The chamber is connected to an automated chemical mixer that can be stocked with hundreds of different compounds. This allows the computer to expose the cells to a wide range of different environmental conditions and drugs. The chamber is monitored by the automated fluorescent microscope, which keeps track of the process and makes some key measurements.

The small volume of the chamber holds the cells in place and does not dilute their cell's secretions, allowing the system to rapidly detect changes that are taking place. A ti
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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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