Flasks, beakers and hot plates may soon be a thing of the past in chemistry labs. Instead of handling a few experiments on a bench top, scientists may simply pop a microchip into a computer and instantly run thousands of chemical reactions, with results literally shrinking the lab down to the size of a thumbnail.
Toward that end, UCLA researchers have developed technology to perform more than a thousand chemical reactions at once on a stamp-size, PC-controlled microchip, which could accelerate the identification of potential drug candidates for treating diseases like cancer.
Their study appears in the Aug. 21 edition of the journal Lab on a Chip and is currently available online.
A team of UCLA chemists, biologists and engineers collaborated on the technology, which is based on microfluidics the utilization of miniaturized devices to automatically handle and channel tiny amounts of liquids and chemicals invisible to the eye. The chemical reactions were performed using in situ click chemistry, a technique often used to identify potential drug molecules that bind tightly to protein enzymes to either activate or inhibit an effect in a cell, and were analyzed using mass spectrometry.
While traditionally only a few chemical reactions could be produced on a chip, the research team pioneered a way to instigate multiple reactions, thus offering a new method to quickly screen which drug molecules may work most effectively with a targeted protein enzyme. In this study, scientists produced a chip capable of conducting 1,024 reactions simultaneously, which, in a test system, ably identified potent inhibitors to the enzyme bovine carbonic anhydrase.
A thousand cycles of complex processes, including controlled sampling and mixing of a library of reagents and sequential microchannel rinsing, all took place on the microchip device and were completed in just a few hours. At the moment, the UCLA team is
|Contact: Rachel Champeau|
University of California - Los Angeles