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TUM and Fujitsu Collaborate on Biosensor Chip for Medical Diagnosis

A biosensor chip capable of identifying proteins that are unique to particular diseases has been jointly developed by the Fujitsu Laboratories of Japan and scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM).

Dr. Jens Niemax, Ralf Strasser, Dr. Kenji Arinaga, and Dr. Ulrich Rant (from left to right), at the Walter Schottky Institute of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen

This chip can also depict whether drugs or disease could change these proteins. Such proteins can be accurately analyzed for devising a technique for particular treatments, to counter diseases like cancer.

Known as switchSENSE, the chip can be used for proteomics research, medical diagnostics, development of pharmaceutical drugs, and detecting infectious diseases in a speedy and easy manner. The International Graduate School of Science and Engineering (IGSSE) supports the TUM research. The International Graduate School of Materials Science of Complex Interfaces (CompInt) is providing funds for a doctoral candidate who is also in this research project.

Dr Ulrich Rant, the university's Institute for Advanced Study’s Carl von Linde Fellow of TUM-IAS, researcher at the Walter Schottky Institute’s Prof. Gerhard Abstreiter laboratories of the TUM engaged in fundamental physics of semiconductor electronics, and the project head, informed that the ability to use one chip for simultaneously analyzing various proteins for multiple parameters is a major advancement. He claimed that this exceptional technique helps to find out the target protein concentration and also demonstrate whether it is transformed by the medication or the disease.

Long synthetic DNA molecules that acquire negative charge in an aqueous solution of salt are incorporated in the chip. At one end these molecules are secured on to a surface of gold, while the other free end is fluorescently labeled with a marker and observed optically. Scientists will be able to position a molecule known as the capture probe at the tip. This molecule can fit in to the targeted protein akin to a lock’s key.

The DNA molecules vibrate between lying and standing states due to alternating current potentials, accompanied by regular state changes in an intense and combined field. The key molecule attaches to a particular protein that is present on a sample material positioned on the chip. Such attachment renders the DNA strands heavier, and their vibratory motion reduces considerably. This motion can be recorded to accurately find out the characteristics of the attached protein whose shape and size has a bearing on the manner in which the DNA molecules vibrate.

Pathogens are identified by the immune system of humans based on certain proteins present on their surfaces. Such an identification system is being used in medical tests. However, these tests require that reagents modify the target chemically or need large quantities of the sample material, in turn needing trained lab technicians and time. The sensor created by the TUM's Walter Schottky Institute scientists is much more sensitive as compared to existing tests for identifying proteins that portray unique features of particular diseases.


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