Protein microchip breakthrough could lead to rapid detection of
diseases and drug discovery
8 September 2008
A new method for attaching active proteins to biological microchips
that could lead to rapid detection of disease and identification of new
drugs has been developed by Scientists at the University of Manchester.
Researchers at the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB) and
the School of Chemistry have unveiled the new technique for producing
the ‘protein chips’ in a paper in the online version of the Journal
of the American Chemical Society (JACS).
The protein chips, also called protein arrays, could give scientists
the ability to run rapid tests on tens of thousands of different
proteins simultaneously and observing how they interact with cells,
other proteins, DNA or drugs.
As proteins can be placed and located precisely on a ‘chip’, it is
possible to scan large numbers of them at the same time automatically
and isolate the data relating to individual proteins.
The Manchester team of Dr Lu Shin Wong, Dr Jenny Thirlway and Prof
Jason Micklefield say the technical challenges of attaching proteins in
a reliable way have previously held back the widespread application and
development of protein chips.
Existing techniques for attaching proteins often results in them
becoming fixed in random orientations, which can cause them to become
damaged and inactive. Current methods also require proteins to be
purified first, which means that creating large and powerful protein
arrays would be hugely costly in terms of time, manpower and money.
The Manchester University researchers say they have found a reliable
new way of attaching active proteins to a chip.
Biological chemists have engineered modified proteins with a special
molecular tag, which makes the protein attach to a surface in a highly
specified way and ensures it remains functional.
The attachment occurs in a single step in just a few hours — unlike
with existing techniques — and requires no prior chemical modification
of the protein of interest or additional chemical steps.
Prof Jason Micklefield from the School of Chemistry, said: “DNA chips
have revolutionised biological and medical science. For many years
scientists have tried to develop similar protein chips but technical
difficulties associated with attaching large numbers of proteins to
surfaces have prevented their widespread application.
“The method we have developed could have profound applications in the
diagnosis of disease, screening of new drugs and in the detection of
bacteria, pollutants, toxins and other molecules.”
Researchers from The University of Manchester are currently working
as part of a consortium of several universities on a £3.1 million
project aimed at developing ‘nanoarrays’.
These would be much smaller than existing ‘micro arrays’ and would
allow thousands more protein samples to be placed on a single chip,
reducing cost and vastly increasing the volume of data that could be