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U-Md. Researchers Report Advance in Biological Microfactories for Drug Research
Date:4/7/2008

COLLEGE PARK, Md., April 7, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A cross-disciplinary research team at the University of Maryland has shown for the first time that their microscopic drug research platform can produce the chemical reactions needed to test potential drugs.

After researchers placed an enzyme on a tiny "biochip" created to mimic the environment within the human body, the enzyme performed as it normally would. This means that the researchers can proceed to the next step--testing new drugs to see, for instance, how effectively they can inhibit bacteria like E. coli.

This advance builds on prior work by the team, which brings together expertise in bioengineering, biomolecular engineering, materials science, and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI). The researchers have developed the biochip, a programmable biological microfactory, which will be used to test drugs and eventually deliver them where they are needed.

"We have now demonstrated perhaps the key advance needed to realize what we seek, a powerful laboratory tool for drug discovery," said Gary Rubloff, professor in the Clark School's Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Institute for Systems Research (ISR), director of the Maryland NanoCenter, and a member of the research team.

"Using biochip microfactories, we believe it will be possible to test potential drugs," Rubloff said. "We hope to enable scientists and physicians to create better, more effective drugs more rapidly and at reduced cost."

The microfactory allows the researchers to manipulate substances using fluid, electrical and optical means. For instance, the researchers used electrical voltage to place a substance called chitosan on the biochip. Chitosan serves as a platform for assembling biomolecules.

One targeted application of the
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SOURCE A. James Clark School of Engineering
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