PORTLAND, Ore. Microfluidic lab-on-a-chip technology has enabled researchers to conduct over 1,000 tests simultaneously.
Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles claim their lab-on-a-chip is the first to perform more than 1,000 parallel operations, thereby completing tests in hours rather than days or weeks.
A microfluidic lab-on-a-chip etches tiny channels (for storing, mixing and testing chemical compounds) on a chip. The technology uses equipment originally designed for semiconductor fabrication, but has been repurposed for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Other efforts are underway to commercialize microfluidic MEMS chips, but UCLA claims to be the first to demonstrate more than 1,000 chemical reactions at once on a stamp-sized, computer-controlled microchip.
|UCLA's microfluidic device performs 1,024 tests simultaneously, but fits in the palm of a hand.|
UCLA's microchip was demonstrated recently in a drug discovery application where it performed tiny reactions to identify potential drug molecules that could be used to treat illness, effectively multiplying the speed of normal testing procedures that use flasks, beakers and hot plates. The lab-on-a-chip held 1,024 different drugs, which were tested to determine whether they would bind to a cell. The results were analyzed off-chip using mass spectrometry. In the future, results also will be analyzed on-chip.
The microfluidic MEMS chip was designed to accelerate discovery of potential treatments for diseases like cancer, but also could be used to automate the massively-parallel testing of other chemical tests, according to UCLA. The chip controls the sampling and mixing of chemicals from an on-chip library of reagents, using computer controlled sequential microchannel switching to perform reactions that would ordinarily takes days or weeks in a traditional lab.
Next, the team plans to automate testing procedures for screening reactions in cases where materials are very expensive or in short supply. By using such tiny amounts of reagents during testing, the researchers hope to open up areas of research that have previously been too expensive to explore.
Details of the study will be published in the Aug. 21 edition of the journal Lab on a Chip.
Funding for the UCLA research was provided by the U.S. Energy Department and the National Institutes of Health.