Febit upgrades miRNA microarrays with new Sanger database
latest version of the Sanger Institute's database of all known
miRNA elements. The upgrade should provide scientists with a more
detailed microRNA profile of their samples.
miRNA, a type of non-coding RNA that does not translate into a protein, regulates gene expression, and many scientists are now studying miRNA as a way of finding out when, where and how a gene is expressed in different cells and tissues. According to Peer Staehler, the chief scientific officer or Febit, it's a growing area of interest. "The field is just emerging," he said. "there's just three or four years of research in this area - it's brand new and almost exploding." Because the field is so new, the sequence databases of all the known miRNA elements are growing at a rapid rate. miRBASE from the Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, is one of the most well-respected of these databases, with roughly 7,000 entries, of which 500 are from the human genome. The database is updated regularly, roughly every three months, with new miRNA research from around the world. Companies such as Febit use miRBASE to suggest which miRNAs their microarrays should be built to detect. The new upgrade using version 11.0 of miRBASE will mean that users of Febit's Geniom platform can now benefit from the latest genetics research with miRNA profiles that consider all the known elements that have currently been discovered. To update its microarray profiling biochips, Febit needed to build new nucleotides on the surface of the microarray which will bond with the newly discovered miRNA elements to give a fluorescent response. According to Staehler, this can be a laborious process, and many companies chose to update their microarrays every year rather than with every update. Febit, however, uses a flexible technique to build the nucleotides on the biochips that allowed the company to release the updated platform within a day of the new version of miRBASE being released. The technique is based on a projector that scans light of a certain frequency and intensity onto the microarray surface. The light triggers the addition of the next base in the sequence of the nucleotide, building up the surface one base at a time. "The nucleotide molecule cannot grow if it's not illuminated at a specific wavelength," said Staehler. "The light triggers the addition of one building block at a time - it's almost like Lego." In this way, the technique can build any sequence it is given - making the upgrade process very simple. "It's almost like burning a CD - it's very fast and flexible," added Staehler. All of Febit's miRNA services have been upgraded with the new database, including Geniom One biochip synthesis unit and the RT Analyzer unit.