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Faster Lab-On-a-Chip Devised for Genetic Analysis

Microfluidic chip for genetic analysis (Univ. of British Columbia)

Microfluidic chip for genetic analysis (Univ. of British Columbia)

A team at University of British Columbia in Vancouver has developed a small silicon chip that the researchers say can make genetic analysis faster and more sensitive. The findings have been accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The UBC scientists worked with colleagues at the British Columbia Cancer Agency and Centre for Translational and Applied Genomics.

The hand-held silicon chip, about the size of a nine-volt battery (pictured left), can simultaneously analyze 300 cells individually by routing fluid carrying cells through microscopic tubes and valves. The chip is designed so individual cells fall into place like balls in a pinball machine. Once isolated into their separate chambers, the cells’ RNA can be extracted and replicated for further analysis.

The single-cell approach is taking on greater importance because tissue samples, even those taken from a single tumor, often contain a mixture of normal cells and various types of cancer cells. Under these conditions, the most important cancer cells may be present in only small numbers and difficult to identify.

The entire process of cell analysis can be performed on a UBC chip, which includes separating the cells, mixing them with chemical reagents to highlight their genetic code, and analyzing the results by measuring fluorescent light emitted from the reaction.

Physicist  and lab leader Carl Hansen says the technology “could radically change the way we do both basic and applied biomedical research, and would make single-cell analysis a more plausible option for treating patients.” Hansen adds the chip could allow “clinicians to distinguish various cancers from one another and tailor their treatments accordingly.”

Read More: Lasers, Electric Fields Aid Lab-on-a-Chip Technology

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