WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.—High-throughput screening has been a major boon to drug discovery, enabling scientists to screen up to 10,000 compounds against cell and tissue samples. While much of this process is automated to streamline the work, the retrieval of cell or tissue samples from the multi-well plates used in screening is not—and given that these plates often feature 96, 108 or more wells per plate, collecting the samples for analysis after screening is a significant time sink.
But thanks to a new technology developed at Purdue University, researchers could soon see this process sped up.
The technology in question is a collapsible basket technology to allow researchers to bypass the need to retrieve samples individually from each well.
“Our collapsible basket array technology has big advantages for drug discovery and personalized medicine,” explained Thomas Siegmund, a professor of mechanical engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “With our collapsible basket array, cells and tissue now reside in fluid permeable microcontainers submerged in the wells of the plate. Microcontainers are attached to a flexible grid. That grid conforms in size not only to the well plate but also to a much smaller histology cassette where cells and tissue [must] reside for microscopy analysis.”
In addition to accelerating the process, Siegmund stated that this new array should also lead to a lower error rate when transferring cell and tissue samples. It's expected to be a good fit for 3D cell cultures as well.
The initial work on this array was funded by the National Cancer Institute, with additional support coming from the Trask Innovation Fund, a Purdue program that awards funding to select faculty and staff twice a year to support the advancement of Purdue projects and intellectual property. In February, it was announced that Bumsoo Han, along with Siegmund and George Chiu, would receive $34,585 to support work on developing the collapsible basket technology. Han is a Purdue professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering and program leader of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research, and Chiu is also a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering.
“Our technology is designed to overcome the obstacles with the handling and analysis of 3D cultures,” Chiu commented. “Those processes are typically laborious, mostly manual and with a low throughput. Increasing throughput can benefit both drug discovery as well as personalized medicine.”
Han and the rest of the research team are working alongside the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent this approach, according to a Purdue University article by Chris Adam, and are seeking partners to aid in the ongoing development.
In other recent biomedical news from Purdue's College of Engineering, a separate team recently shared news of the development of a bioluminescence-based assay and portable device that can be used with smartphones or laptops to enable on-site E. coli testing of food samples. The device in question is known as a silicon photomultiplier, and the research team developed an electrical circuit with an amplifier, comparator and micro-controller to transfer the device's data to personal devices via Bluetooth technology, according to a piece by Purdue's Adam. Euiwon Bae, a senior research scientist of mechanical engineering at the College of Engineering, and Bruce Applegate, a professor of food science at the College of Agriculture, developed this technology.
“Our goal is to create technology and a process that allows for the cost-effective detection of the causes of foodborne illness using an easy, expedient and efficient process,” Bae remarked in a press release. “This time frame allows for better integrated detection and quicker action to stop more people from getting sick.”