Researchers from Kyushu University in Japan
have produced a hydrogel material that makes it possible for proteins
to survive aboard labs-on-a-chip.
Labs-on-a-chip are poised to enable tests that are currently carried
out in the lab to be carried out using portable devices that require considerably
smaller quantities of samples and chemicals. Proteins are especially important
in biological applications -- DNA's instructions involve forming different
types of proteins, which then carry out life's processes. Proteins, including
enzymes, need to remain hydrated.
The researchers's material -- glycosylated amino acetate -- contains
two types of nanoscale compartments: hydrophilic areas that trap large
quantities of water, and hydrophobic areas that repel water, making for
a semi-wet chip.
The hydrophilic areas trap up to 99.9 percent of their weight
in water; these aqueous cavities can be used to carry out protein reactions.
The hydrophobic areas can be used for monitoring the reactions.
The researchers' semi-wet chips could be used to quickly screen
drugs to find those that inhibit various protein interactions, according
to the researchers.
The method could be used practically in two to five years, according
to the researchers. The work appeared in the December 7, 2003 issue of
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