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Technische Universität München. (4/22/10). "Press Release: High-sensitivity Protein Analysis. Biosensor Chip Recognizes Diseases".

Region Region München (Munich)
  Country Germany
Organisations Organisation Fujitsu (Group)
  Organisation 2 Technical University Munich (TU München, TUM)
Products Product bio sensor
  Product 2 protein chip product (array, bead, lab-on-a-chip)

In the battle against cancer and other diseases, precise analysis of specific proteins can
point the way toward targeted treatments. Scientists at the Technische Universitaet
Muenchen (TUM), together with Fujitsu Laboratories of Japan, have developed a novel
biosensor chip that not only recognizes proteins that are characteristic for specific
diseases, but also can show if these proteins are changed through the influence of
disease or drugs.

The human immune system recognizes pathogens by specific proteins on their surfaces. This
detection principle manifests itself again and again in biology, and it is already used in
medical tests. Such tests typically require relatively large amounts of sample material,
however, and many problems can't be investigated in this way. For some tests, the target
protein must be chemically modified by reagents. That requires both time and well trained lab
technicians. Now scientists at TUM's Walter Schottky Institute have developed a biosensor
one hundred times more sensitive than currently available tests in recognizing proteins that
are characteristic for the clinical picture of specific diseases.

The biosensor chip holds synthetic DNA molecules, which are negatively charged, in an
aqueous salt solution. These long molecules are tethered at one end to a gold surface. The
free end is labeled with a fluorescent marker, so it can be optically observed; and at the very
tip the scientists can place a "capture probe," a molecule that fits together with the target
protein like the key to a lock. Alternating electric potentials set the DNA molecules in motion,
swinging back and forth between "standing" and "lying" states with regular changes in a
tightly confined but intense field. If the protein of interest is present in sample material placed
on the biosensor chip, it will bind to the "key" molecule. And because this makes the DNA
strands considerably heavier, their swinging motion will be noticeably slower. Precise
confirmation of the identity of the captured protein can be deduced from measurements of
this motion, since both the size and shape of the protein will affect the way the DNA
molecules swing.

This approach is unique in its ability not only to determine the concentration of the target
protein, but also to show if it is altered by the disease or the influence of medication. The
scientists are currently working with a chip that can analyze 24 different proteins in parallel.
"The potential to analyze, on a single chip, many proteins at once in terms of multiple parameters represents a significant advance," says Dr. Ulrich Rant, head of the project. Rant is a researcher in the laboratories of Prof. Gerhard Abstreiter at the Walter Schottky Institute, a central institute of TUM focused on the fundamental physics of semiconductor electronics.

Important application areas for this biosensor chip technology, which the TUM scientists have
dubbed "switchSENSE," include medical diagnostics, pharmaceutical drug development, and
proteomics research. It could eventually make its way into the doctor's office, as a simple and
quick analysis tool for identifying infectious diseases.

Rant and his team now plan to found a startup company to commercialize their development,
supported by the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and their industrial partner Fujitsu
Laboratories Ltd.. They have won additional support through a research transfer program
called EXIST, sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. They have also been successful in the first stages of two entrepreneurial competitions, the
Muenchener Businessplan Wettbewerb and Science4Life. Further development is targeted
toward completion of a pre-production prototype by the end of 2010 and collaborative pilot
projects with customers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

Within TUM, support for this research has come through the International Graduate School of
Science and Engineering (IGSSE). Ulrich Rant is a Carl von Linde Fellow of TUM-IAS, the
university's Institute for Advanced Study. In addition, one doctoral candidate working on this
research is being financed by the International Graduate School of Materials Science of
Complex Interfaces (CompInt).

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, together with Fujitsu
Laboratories of Japan, have developed a biosensor chip with improved capabilities for
recognizing proteins, which could have applications in medical diagnosis, drug development,
and proteomics research.

Video Animation
Video Animation illustrating how switchSENSE sensors operate:

Technische Universität München Corporate Communications Center 80290 München
Name Position Telefon E-Mail
Dr. Ulrich Marsch Sprecher des Präsidenten +49 89 289 22779
Dr. Andreas Battenberg PR-Referent Campus Garching +49 89 289 12890

Record changed: 2019-06-09


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