Shrinking technologies to dig deeper into the body’s secrets

The work, led by CSIC, involved former IBEC PhD student Juan Pablo Agusil, who’s now at CSIC’s Barcelona Microelectronics Institute (IMB-CNM). The team also included scientists from the Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas in Madrid, and the UB’s Instituto de Nanociencia y Nanotecnología in Barcelona.

“Two previous methods, planar array chips and suspension arrays of particles, that have long been used to study biomolecular interactions and carry out complex molecular analyses,” Juan Pablo explains. “But while planar array chips are good for molecular multiplexing – testing an array of independent components in a single platform for rapid individual identification of multiple elements – they are too large for exceptionally small volumes; and while suspension arrays allow the analysis of small volumes, they don’t allow multiple detections in a single device.”

To overcome this, the researchers combined the advantageous aspects of the two techniques to come up with Suspended Planar-Array chips, a technology that is able to cope with molecular multiplexing at exceptionally small volumes; essentially, they miniaturized a typical planar array by a factor of 1010. “Using just one Suspended Planar-Array device, we can enter the cell and make multiple detections of biological parameters,” Juan Pablo says. “This is the first time a multiplexed planar array has gone inside a living cell.”

Using their chips, the researchers have already demonstrated the movement of hydrogen ions across the cell-membrane of a HeLa cell, opening the way for future studies of multiple simultaneous molecular phenomena inside a living cell.  “The interdisciplinary nature, versatility and potential of our technique could be of major interest to scientists working in many different disciplines, such as advanced materials, engineering, chip technology, printing of self-assembled nanolayers, biomaterials, cell biology and nanotechnology,” says Juan Pablo.

Núria Torras, Juan Pablo Agusil, Patricia Vázquez, Marta Duch, Alberto M. Hernández-Pinto, Josep Samitier, Enrique J. de la Rosa, Jaume Esteve, Teresa Suárez, Lluïsa Pérez-García and José A. Plaza (2015). Suspended Planar-Array Chips for Molecular Multiplexing at the Microscale. Advanced Materials, 17;28(7):1449-54

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