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Posted: December 14, 2007
Biochips on guard of health
(Nanowerk News) Researchers of the Institute of Molecular Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, have been working for more than 20 years on designing biological microchips for efficient and quick diagnostics of tuberculosis and other diseases. The BIOCHIP-IMB company was set up at the Institute for production of domestic microchips. During the press-tour on November 15, 2007, the researchers told journalists about progress and achievements. The project of the laboratory of biological microchips at the Institute of Molecular Biology (Russian Academy of Sciences ) is one of the winners at the contest of projects on the “Living Systems” priority direction of the Federal Target Program guided by the Federal Agency for Science and Innovations (Rosnauka).
“The main property of biological microchips is massive parallel analysis of biological material”, explains Dmitry Gryadunov, researcher of the laboratory. The biochip per se is the glass upon which multiple microcells are located, each of the cells being a miniature analogue of a test-tube, where the reaction is taking place. The cells contain the DNA-probes, each of them being able to recognize any section of the patient’s DNA. Biological material – a drop of blood or other bioliquid – is applied at the glass, and interaction occurs in microcells between the DNA-probe and the DNA section complementary to it – that is hybridization: they match each other like the key and the lock. If the reaction has taken place, luminescence occurs in the cell, the luminescence can be discovered with the help of the “Chipdetector” analyzer device.
The very first biochip was developed by the researchers of the Institute of Molecular Biology for detection of various forms of tuberculosis. Insidious mycobacteria mutate very quickly and become immune to drugs. To understand how the patient should be treated, it is necessary to know precisely which mutant form of pathogene the patient is infected with. For this purpose, biochip is simply indispensable as instead of multiple lengthy analysis it gives the opportunity to find out the answer at once via a single analysis. The DNA-probes reveal peculiarities of mycobacteria’s DNA.
“The price per analysis with the help of our biochips is about 500 Rubles, and this is several times less than that of foreign analogues, says Victor Barsky, Director General, BIOCHIP-IMB, Doctor of Biology. Now, we are producing 1,500 to 2,000 biochips per month, but in the future we are planning to pass on to 3 to 4 thousand per month. However, the demand for this diagnostics method is much higher.” Besides tuberculosis biochips, the researchers have also created other kinds of diagnostic biochips. They help to discover chromosomal abnormalities in case of different types of leucosis, to analyze varieties of influenza viruses, including, bird flu, to detect pathogens of herpes, hepatite ?, mycoplasma, cytomegalovirus with pregnant women and new-borns, predisposition to oncological diseases, including, breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases, to identify the blood groups and to reveal various drugs intolerance. Not all of the above-mentioned biochips have been certified. As Victor Barsky explains, it is particularly difficult to certify predisposition identification biochips: even provided the individual has predisposition, he/she may or may not fall ill. Therefore, tremendous statistics should be collected so that this method could be applied in clinics. So far, it is applied along with others to confirm the diagnosis.
In Russia, tuberculosis biochips are applied in 20 tuberculosis centers. Employees of these centers take method learning at the Institute. Partners and customers of the Institute of Molecular Biology are the Institute of Virology (Russian Academy of Medical Sciences), French hospital in Toulouse (the hepatite C biochip production is being developed with French colleagues), biochips and devices for analysis are delivered to Belarus, Ukraine, Kirgizia, South Korea, Brazil, and they are passing clinical trials in the USA.
The excursion to the laboratory of biological microchips was carried out by Alexander Zasedatelev, Deputy Director of the Institute, Doctor of Biology. Before entering the sterile zone for biochip production, the journalists put on disposable smocks, caps and shoe covers. The biochip “stuffing” – DNA-probes – is being produced here. In a different manufacturing premise, robots are working round the clock, without rest to methodically apply these probes into microcells under the computer control. It is good that the most laborious and lengthy part of work can be trusted to robots! However, all production is man-checked on a special device with a monitor. And after that, the biochips that have passed the checkup can be entrusted with diagnostics of human diseases. In contrast to physicians, they make no mistakes.