When it comes to proteins, biochips are difficult to produce. This is because proteins have a defined three-dimensional structure which allows them to interact with other molecules and to control biological processes. If proteins bind to a surface, the structure can be destroyed and they cannot perform their function.
Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Potsdam have solved this problem. "We have developed a gel – a network of organic molecules – that we can apply to the surface of the biochip," says Dr. Andreas Holländer, group manager at the IAP. "This gel layer is only about 100 to 500 nano-meters thick and consists mainly of water. We thus make the protein believe that it is in a solution, even though it is chemically connected to the network. It feels as if it is in its natural environment and continues to function even though it is on a biochip." The key feature of the new production technique is that it can be applied in industry, and the gel layers can be manufactured cheaply on a large scale.
As the hydrogel layers are very thin, added substances quickly reach the protein which is in and on these layers. For example, physicians can put blood or urine on the chip and diagnose illnesses. The scientists have already developed the process fundamentals. Therefore, protein biochips may become standard in medical laboratories soon.
MEDICA.de; Source: Fraunhofer Society