The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Friday Science Review: August 5, 2011

High-Throughput Platform for Single-Cell qPCR

University of British Columbia ♦ BC Cancer Agency ♦ Centre for Translational and Applied Genomics

Published in PNAS, August 1st, 2011

An achievement in microfluidics this week as researchers from the University of British Columbia report on the development of an integrated microfluidics device that performs high-throughput mRNA analysis on a chip. The platform is capable of analyzing hundreds of single cells per run, and operates on a nanolitre scale, offering very high sensitivity. The goal of advanced microfluidics systems for single cell analysis has been to incorporate each step of the process into seamless automation. Although current devices provide the necessary high-throughput qPCR readout, they require micropipettes or cell-sorting to trap cells for analysis on the front-end. This novel device does it all, and is the first example of a fully integrated platform for single-cell qPCR on a chip. Among the other advantages of this platform are improved performance, reduced cost, and scalability.

Melarsoprol Exacerbates HIV-1 Infection

Laval University ♦ Sherbrooke University ♦ Published in Journal of Molecular Biology, July 29th, 2011

Recent findings suggest that melarsoprol, a drug commonly used to treat sleeping sickness in Africa, improves the HIV virus’ ability to replicate in human cells. Due to the fact that Trypanosoma brucei infections are often seen along with HIV-1 infection, researchers were curious to investigate potential interactions between the two pathogens. In doing so they found that melarsoprol can stimulate the replication of several strains of HIV-1 in dendritic cells. These findings raise concerns for patients receiving the drug because it can exacerbate disease conditions and may have implications on disease transmission. Melarsoprol seems to boost HIV replication by inhibiting a certain cellular restriction factor, which under normal circumstances exerts a slightly antagonistic effect on the HIV reverse transcription process.

Recombinant BCL-X Enhances Pre-Implantation Embryo Development

University of Toronto ♦ Mount Sinai Hospital ♦ Washington University in St. Louis

Published in PLoS ONE, July 20th, 2011

More automation this week with the introduction of a fully-automated robotic system for high-throughput microinjection of pre-implantation embryos. Infertility is on the rise, and as more and more couples require the services of IVF doctors, there is more demand for treatment options that can continue to increase the success of IVF in the clinic. This new system combines motion control, computer vision microscopy, and micro device technology to accurately and efficiently deliver small quantities of recombinant material. Researchers injected the anti-apoptic agent BCL-X into mouse zygotes, and found that they could enhance the viability and pre-implantation development of mouse embryos grown in sub-optimal in vitro conditions. The system could offer a new treatment paradigm for couples experiencing difficulty with IVF.

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