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Self-organisation on a chip

An EU-funded project has devised a high-throughput biochip that can agitate fluids and organise itself into a nanowire as well as a high-density array.

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High-throughput assays are undoubtedly the way forward for tailored drug design and therapy at the nano level. The core of a new system is a chip-based platform and its subsequent analysis based on the strength of interaction between a ligand and its receptor. Applications include biomarker assays as well as lead screening. Armed with novel technologies for biochip design, the EU-funded 'Nanobiotechnology with self-organising structures' (NABIS) project combined a variety of state-of-the-art nanotechniques to develop an optimised biochip system. Using various techniques made possible by the nano-environment and its properties, project scientists aimed to increase the throughput of ligands and enhance kinetics to improve not only sensitivity, but also speed. Perhaps the crux of the biochip design came from self-organisation of fluids into a predictable format. Both microarray (static) and microfluidic (dynamic) systems were used and a combination of the two formats could be used to avoid hold-ups and related reduction in speed in the automatic high-throughput assays. Moreover, efficient fluid agitation of nano-droplets can be achieved using acoustic wave manipulation on the surface of the chip. For the development of high-density arrays, NABIS scientists controlled the surface expansion in nano-domains, small sets of atoms within the nano definition of size. Self-assembly polymers on the enlarged surface of nanodots form high-density arrays. Nanodots also formed the basis of anchoring points where nanoparticles, when subject to a magnetic field, convert into bio-nanowires. A nanoelectrochemical detection system would connect with the bioassays on the chip format. an optimised biochip using the cream of nanotechnology techniques would mean even faster diagnostics for drug screening and discovery, environmental monitoring and personalised medicine.

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