Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Biomolecular Screening
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Hundreds of Biochemical Analyses on a Single Device

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Scientists at EPFL and the University of Geneva have developed a microfluidic device smaller than a domino that can simultaneously measure up to 768 biomolecular interactions.

Inside our cells, molecules are constantly binding and separating from one another. It’s this game of constant flux that drives gene expression asides essentially every other biological process.

Understanding the specific details of how these interactions take place is thus crucial to our overall understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of living organisms. There are millions of possible combinations of molecules, however; determining all of them would be a Herculean task. Various tools have been developed to measure the degree of affinity between a strand of DNA and its transcription factor. They provide an indication of the strength of the affinity between them.

“Commercial” devices, however, have one main drawback: many preliminary manipulations are necessary before an experiment can be carried out, and even then, the experiment can only focus on a dozen interactions at a time.

Microns-wide channels

As part of his doctoral research at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Sebastian Maerkl designed a device that he named “MITOMI” – a small device containing hundreds of microfluidic channels equipped with pneumatic valves. This week Maerkl, who is now an assistant professor in EPFL’s Bioengineering Institute, is publishing an article describing the next step in the evolution of the device in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The new version, “k-MITOMI,” was developed in the context of the RTD DynamiX in cooperation with the University of Geneva.

This microfluidic device has 768 chambers, each one with a valve that allows DNA and transcription factors to interact in a very carefully controlled manner. “In traditional methods, we generally manage to determine if an interaction takes place or not, and then we restart the experiment with another gene or another transcription factor,” Maerkl explains. “Our device goes much further, because it allows us to measure the affinity and kinetics of the interaction.”

The strength of the device lies in a sort of “push-button” in its microreactors. A protein substrate is immobilized on the device; above it circulates a solution containing DNA moelcules. The push-button is activated at regular intervals of a few milliseconds, trapping protein-DNA complexes that form on the surface of the device. “Then we close the lid, and fluorescence reveals the exact number of bound molecules,” explains Maerkl. “We can also observe how long these molecules remain bound.”

In addition to providing quantitative kinetic information, the k-MITOMI device can work in a “massively parallel” manner. Each of the 768 independent chambers can simultaneously analyze different molecule pairs. It can also be used to synthesize proteins in vitro, with a massive reduction in time and number of manipulations compared to the traditional method, which involves producing proteins inside a living organism such as a bacterium, purifying, and putting them in contact with the genes to be studied.

“The number of protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions that remain to be characterized is phenomenal. Our device not only allows us to accelerate the acquisition of this information, which is crucial to our understanding of living organisms, but it also meets a need for the production of specific proteins,” adds Maerkl.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Antidepressants Plus Blood-Thinners Slow Down Brain Cancer
EPFL scientists have found that combining antidepressants with anticoagulants slows down brain tumors (gliomas) in mice.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Breath Test For Detecting Head And Neck Cancer
A portable device can detect the presence of certain types of cancer in people's breath.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
Measuring microRNAs in Blood to Speed Cancer Detection
A simple, ultrasensitive microRNA sensor holds promise for the design of new diagnostic strategies and, potentially, for the prognosis and treatment of pancreatic and other cancers.
Potential Persistent Tuberculosis Treatment
Researchers have discovered several first-in-class compounds that target hidden TB infections by attacking a critical process the bacteria use to survive in the hostile environment of the lungs.
Metabolic Profiles Distinguish Early Stage Ovarian Cancer with Unprecedented Accuracy
Studying blood serum compounds of different molecular weights has led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer.
The Do’s and Don’ts of SPR Experiments
Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) is a technique that is becoming more widely used, particularly by anyone who wants to obtain accurate on (association) and off (dissociation) rates for biomolecular binding.
Long-Sought Protein Sensor for the ‘Sixth Sense’ Discovered
In a study led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI)the sensor protein for propioception has been identified.
New Anti-Malarial Drug Screening Model
University of South Florida researchers demonstrate novel chemogenomic profiling to identify drug targets for the most lethal strain of malaria.
Shedding Light on “Dark” Cellular Receptors
UNC and UCSF labs create a new research tool to find homes for two orphan cell-surface receptors, a crucial step toward finding better therapeutics and causes of drug side effects.
New, Better Test for Prostate Cancer
A study from Karolinska Institutet shows that a new test for prostate cancer is better at detecting aggressive cancer than PSA.
Giant Molecules Inhibit Ebola Infection
European researchers have designed a "giant" molecule formed by thirteen fullerenes covered by carbohydrates which, by blocking this receptor, are able to inhibit the cell infection by an artificial ebola virus model.

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos