Biochips to speed up detection of infections

August 23rd, 2008 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 23 (IANS) Manchester University scientists have developed a method for making protein chips that would enable quick detection of infections, quick testing of serious diseases and rapid discovery of new drugs.Protein chips - or ‘protein arrays’ are objects like slides that have proteins attached to them and permit crucial data about the behaviour of proteins to be gathered.

Functional protein arrays could give scientists the ability to run tests on tens of thousands of different proteins simultaneously, observing how they interact with cells, other proteins, DNA and drugs.

As proteins can be placed precisely on a chip, it would be possible to scan large numbers of them simultaneously and also isolate the data bearing on individual proteins.

These chips would allow large amounts of data to be generated with the minimum use of materials - especially rare proteins that are only available in very small amounts.

The Manchester team of Jenny Thirlway and Jason Micklefield and Lu Shin Wong, said the technical challenges of attaching proteins in a reliable way have previously held back the widespread application and development of protein chips.

Current methods also require proteins to be purified first, which implies that the creation of large and powerful protein arrays would be hugely expensive in terms of time, manpower and money.

Manchester University researchers said they have found a reliable new way of attaching active proteins to a chip.

The attachment occurs in a single step in just a few hours - unlike with existing techniques - and requires no prior chemical modification of the protein of interest or additional chemical steps.

Researcher Jason Micklefield said: “DNA chips have revolutionised biological and medical science. For many years scientists have tried to develop similar protein chips but technical difficulties associated with attaching large numbers of proteins to surfaces have prevented their widespread application.

“The method we have developed could have profound applications in the diagnosis of disease, screening of new drugs and in the detection of bacteria, pollutants, toxins and other molecules,” Micklefield added.

The new technique was published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

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