Navigation Links
Sorting device for analyzing biological reactions puts the power of a lab in a researchers 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 technology :

1. Friction force differences could offer a new means for sorting and assembling nanotubes
2. Tsunami invisibility cloak, dark energy v. the void, sorting nanotubes with light, and more
3. Riemer Named President of Medical Device Manufacturer MRPC
4. Marriage of microfluidics and optics could advance lab-on-a-chip devices
5. Single-step technique produces both p-type and n-type doping for future graphene devices
6. Waytronx Announces Agreement for Development and Production of Its GASPT2 Device With UK-Based Ingenion Design Limited
7. Stroke Therapy with Corkscrew Device Most Beneficial, Study Suggests
8. New silicon-germanium nanowires could lead to smaller, more powerful electronic devices
9. Understanding mechanical properties of silicon nanowires paves way for nanodevices
10. Medical Device Software Engineering Firm Full Spectrum Software Appoints Cindy Larkin to Director of Client Services
11. Record Revenue Growth for Medical Device Software Consulting Firm Full Spectrum Software
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Sorting device for analyzing biological reactions puts the power of a lab in a researchers pocket
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... April 27, 2016 , ... Cambridge Semantics, ... web technology, today announced that it has been named to The Silicon Review’s “20 ... services and other markets, Cambridge Semantics serves the needs of end users facing some ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... Md. and RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, ... Corporation (NASDAQ: UTHR ) announced today that ... Officer, of United Therapeutics will provide an overview and ... 41 st Annual Health Care Conference. ... 2016, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time, and can be ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... ... April 27, 2016 , ... Global Stem Cells ... Advisory Board. Ross is the founder of GSCG affiliate Kimera Labs in Miami. , ... he studied hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for hematologic disorders and the suppression of graft ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... ... April 26, 2016 , ... BaseHealth , ... joined the company as Chief Business Officer. Arianpour, a genomics pioneer and visionary ... market, was most recently Chief Commercial Officer of Pathway Genomics. He has held ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:3/31/2016)... -- Genomics firm Nabsys has completed a financial  restructuring under ... M.D., who returned to the company in October 2015. ... including Chief Technology Officer, John Oliver , Ph.D., ... Vice President of Software and Informatics, Michael Kaiser ... Bready served as CEO of Nabsys from 2005-2014 and ...
(Date:3/23/2016)... 2016 Einzigartige ... und Stimmerkennung mit Passwörtern     ... MESG ), ein führender Anbieter digitaler Kommunikationsdienste, ... SpeechPro zusammenarbeitet, um erstmals dessen Biometrietechnologie einzusetzen. ... Möglichkeit angeboten, im Rahmen mobiler Apps neben ...
(Date:3/22/2016)... and SANDY, Utah , March ... operates the highest sample volume laboratory in ... and UNIConnect, leaders in clinical sequencing informatics and molecular ... of a project to establish the informatics infrastructure for ... NSO has been contracted by the Ontario Ministry ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):