Chip scales down nucleic acid extraction
developed a postage stamp-sized chip that can be used to carry out
many of the routine steps involved in isolating and purifying
nucleic acids from cells.
Once refined, the microfluidic technology could do away with the all the routine tasks involved isolating nucleic acids, which is important to allow scientists working in drug discovery insight into the workings of cells in normal and diseased states.
All processes, included cell isolation, cell lysis, DNA or mRNA purification, and recovery, were carried out on a single microfluidic chip in nanolitre volumes without any pre- or post-sample treatment. Measurable amounts of messenger RNA were extracted in an automated fashion from as little as a single mammalian cell and recovered from the chip, say the researchers, who have published the work in the early online edition of Nature Biotechnology.
While many companies and researchers have developed ways to carry out some of these processes on a miniature scale, the CIT researchers, headed by Steven Quake, believe they are the first to have put them all into one device.
Future generations of the chip could be modified to include tools that can analyse the nucleic acid patterns and work out which genes are active by their mRNA profiles, according to the scientists.
They also note that the chips can be used to test a number of samples in parallel, increasing the throughput of nucleic acid studies without having to rely on laboratory robotics In addition, they and use only a fraction of the reagents needed by current extraction and purification methods, potentially reducing costs.