Source Newsroom: Wake Forest University
Using beads so tiny that 1,000 of them would fit across a strand of human hair, Wake Forest University Assistant Professor of Physics Martin Guthold hopes to find the next treatment for cancer – or any other disease, for that matter. His discoveries come in such small packages via a tool he and his partners invented. It’s called Next-Gen Lab-on-Bead.
This NIH-funded technology, which could be the first to incorporate next-generation genetic sequencing for drug discovery, uses a one-inch-square chip dotted with millions of wells. Each well contains a bead, and each bead has a potential drug molecule attached. When a pharmaceutical company sends him a target – a protein molecule representing a cancer, for instance – Guthold and his team flow it over the chip. The bead that glows is the potential drug. It’s that fast.
He also is using this tool to discover aptamers, a new class of folded DNA or RNA molecules that can be used as therapeutics or diagnostics. The initial goal is to find a HER2 aptamer, associated with breast cancer.
Guthold on how next-generation genetic sequencing could change drug discovery …
“Next-gen is much faster and cheaper. It miniaturizes sequencing on beads in little wells at the same time. We can do millions of sequencing actions in unison.”
Why beads make the process easier …
“Tough technically possible, picking up or visualizing one single molecule is difficult and tricky to do; so we thought we could use a little bead to serve as a handle. That way, the molecule could be more easily manipulated, visualized and processed.”
How Next-Gen Lab-on-Bead could help doctors …
“If you want to determine if a biopsy is cancerous, you would use a diagnostic molecule that was discovered with our technology to see if it binds certain cancer markers. If it binds, it’s cancerous. This could be used as a diagnostic tool for hospitals and clinics.”