New microchip technology performs 1,000 chemical reactions at once

Aug 03, 2009
This is a microfluidic device held in the palm of the hand. Credit: UCLA

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 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.

This is the design of the second generation integrated microfluidic device. Credit: UCLA

While traditionally only a few 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 restricted to analyzing the reaction results off-line, but in the future, they intend to automate this aspect of the work as well.

"The precious enzyme molecules required for a single in situ click reaction in a traditional lab now can be split into hundreds of duplicates for performing hundreds of reactions in parallel, thus revolutionizing the laboratory process, reducing reagent consumption and accelerating the process for identifying potential drug candidates," said study author Hsian-Rong Tseng, a researcher at UCLA's Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging, an associate professor molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.

Kym F. Faull, director of the Pasarow Mass Spectrometry Lab at UCLA, helped the team with several challenges, including reducing the amount of chemicals needed for reactions on the chip, enhancing test sensitivity and speeding up reaction analysis.

"The system allows researchers to not only test compounds quicker but uses only tiny amounts of materials, which greatly reduces lab time and costs," said Faull, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Geffen School of Medicine.

Next steps for the team include exploring the use of this microchip technology for other screening reactions in which chemicals and material samples are in limited supply — for example, with a class of protein enzymes called kinases, which play critical roles in the malignant transformation of cancer.

According to the researchers, the technology may open up many areas for biological and medicinal study.

Source: University of California - Los Angeles

Explore further: Detecting infection with a microchip

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New Microlab on Chip for Medical Imaging Biomarkers

Dec 16, 2005

A collaboration among scientists at UCLA, the California Institute of Technology, Stanford, Siemens and Fluidigm has developed a new technology using integrated microfluidic chips for simplifying, lowering ...

'Designer enzymes' created by chemists

Mar 19, 2008

Chemists from UCLA and the University of Washington have succeeded in creating "designer enzymes," a major milestone in computational chemistry and protein engineering.

Flow of tiny bubbles mimics computer circuitry

Feb 08, 2007

In work that could dramatically boost the capabilities of "lab on a chip" devices, MIT researchers have created a way to use tiny bubbles to mimic the capabilities of a computer.

Chip simulates metabolism of medicine in human body

Apr 24, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A tiny electrochemical cell, developed by researchers of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, The Netherlands, is able to mimick the behaviour of medicine inside a human body. This chip ...

High-pressure chemistry in ultra small pressure cooker

Apr 13, 2007

Small, clever process technology is essential for the future, but is it possible? Dutch-sponsored researcher Fernando Benito López investigated the possibilities of the so-called lab-on-a-chip: microreactor chips in which ...

UCLA chemists create nano valve

Jul 15, 2005

UCLA chemists have created the first nano valve that can be opened and closed at will to trap and release molecules. The discovery, federally funded by the National Science Foundation, will be published July ...

Recommended for you

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

13 hours ago

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

Breakthrough points to new drugs from nature

14 hours ago

Researchers at Griffith University's Eskitis Institute have developed a new technique for discovering natural compounds which could form the basis of novel therapeutic drugs.

World's first successful visualisation of key coenzyme

15 hours ago

Japanese researchers have successfully developed the world's first imaging method for visualising the behaviour of nicotine-adenine dinucleotide derivative (NAD(P)H), a key coenzyme, inside cells. This feat ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

getgoa
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2009
Am I understanding this right, all the wires stand for a different chemical triggering what chemicals or wires in this case will react with one another and thereby giving results instantaneoulsy to the computer?
El_Nose
not rated yet Aug 03, 2009
good article -- informative --- but why is it that headlines now tie into the first paragraph of the article??
thales
5 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2009
I'm excited for the applications this could mean for genetic algorithms. One major limitation of GAs is the ability to apply a real-world fitness test quickly, as noted here:
http://web.duke.e...problems

With a quick way to test thousands of candidate solutions in the "real world," a GA approach would be incredibly powerful.

More news stories

Breakthrough points to new drugs from nature

Researchers at Griffith University's Eskitis Institute have developed a new technique for discovering natural compounds which could form the basis of novel therapeutic drugs.

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...