Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
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 2,700+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ 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

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
Biomarker Predicting Transplant Complications May be Key to Treating Them
A protein that can be used to predict if a stem cell transplant patient will suffer severe complications may also be the key to preventing those complications, an international research team based at the Indiana University School of Medicine reported Wednesday.
New Protein Cleanup Factors Found to Control Bacterial Growth
UMass Amherst researchers characterize previously mysterious proteolysis factors.
Proteins with ALS, Cancer Role Do Not Assume a Regular Shape
Our cells contain proteins, essential to functions like protein creation and DNA repair but also involved in forms of ALS and cancer, that never take a characteristic shape, a new study shows.
Key to Natural Detoxifier’s Reactivity Discovered
Results have implications for health, drug design and chemical synthesis.
New Protein Found in Immune Cells
Immunobiologists from the University of Freiburg discover Kidins220/ARMS in B cells and demonstrate its functions.
Cell's Waste Disposal System Regulates Body Clock Proteins
New way to identify interacting proteins could identify potential drug targets.
How a Molecular Motor Untangles Protein
Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and prion diseases, all involve “tangled” proteins.
Compound Doubles Up On Cancer Detection
Researchers have found that tagging a pair of markers found almost exclusively on a common brain cancer yields a cancer signal that is both more obvious and more specific to cancer.
How Cell Growth Triggers Cell Division
Researchers in Jan Skotheim's lab have discovered a previously unknown mechanism that controls how large cells grow, an insight that could one day provide insight into attacking diseases such as cancer.
Probing the Forces Involved in Creating The Mitotic Spindle
Scientists at The Rockefeller University reveal new insights into the mechanical forces that govern elements of the mitotic spindle formation.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

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
2,700+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos