Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - MICROSURFTAS (Micro surface science of materials for micro total analysis systems)

The Stokes institute undertook research in micro total analysis systems focussed on the early stage diagnosis of childhood leukaemia using the 'Polymerase chain reaction' (PCR) implemented onto a microfluidic platform. Research links were forged with medical, chemical, manufacturing, sensing and other thermofluid research groups. What was lacking was the micro-biological aspect, specifically how the biofluid reagents would interact with surfaces in the devices. This interaction could results in erroneous results, failure of the device to perform, or cross contamination of samples.

The objective of MICROSURFTAS was to address these issues by recruiting molecular biologists. Three TOK fellows were recruited and liased with the Institute's research fellows, PhD students, and existing collaborators. Initially the fellows worked on establishing micro-biology laboratories and training researchers at postdoctoral, postgraduate and undergraduate level on the procedures and protocols for the 'Polymerase chain reaction' (PCR).

Bio-compatibility of surfaces was addressed in a two-pronged approach: firstly through a survey on the compatibility of PCR mixes with capillary tubing, and secondly, through the avoidance of surface interactions by encapsulating micro-reactors in an immiscible carrier fluid. Contamination, defined as transfer from one sample to another, was also examined for interconnects widely used in interfacing fluidic devices at the micro-scale.

The three fellows further developed the micro-TAS research effort at the Stokes Institute: a concept for an extraction free total analysis for direct PCR from cultured cells was demonstrated. The fellows also worked closely with engineering researchers on assessing the performance of continuous flow PCR micro-fludic devices, comparing them to commercial systems, and also helping to optimise the designs for maximum through-put and efficiency.

The participation of the MICROSURFTAS fellows was enormously successful and made a significant contribution to the micro-TAS research effort at the Stokes Institute. Three journal publications accrued directly from their involvement and they helped make PCR a routine procedure in the Institute's laboratories. Also, owing in part to the contribution of MICROSURFTAS the Institute secured venture capital to launch a spin-off company called Stokes Bio Ltd. The company is developing engineering platforms for the genetic diagnosis of cancer.

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