Yanik lab's microchip technology identifies nerve regeneration compounds

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October 12, 2010

Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Rahul Sarpeshkar, left, and Soumyajit Mandal display their RF (radio frequency) cochlea, a low-power, ultra-broadband radio chip. The chip, held by Mandal, is attached to an antenna, held by Sarpeshkar. The diagram on the computer monitor shows the wiring layout of the chip.  Photo / Donna Coveney

EECS associate professor Mehmet Fatih Yanik and members of his group the High-Throughput Neurotechnology Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) at MIT have reported the discovery of potential nerve regeneration compounds using the microchip technology they developed to carry out testing on live vertebrate specimens, in this case on tiny worms called C. elegans. Using the new technology, Yanik and his colleagues were able perform laser surgery, deliver drugs and image the resulting neuron regrowth in thousands of live animals. The technique and resulting identification of classes of potential compounds to treat spinal-cord damage as well as neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s adds a new level of direct testing on tissue in live animals.

Yanik described this work to the MIT News Office saying, “Our technology helps researchers rapidly identify promising chemicals that can then be tested in mammals and perhaps even in humans. Using this technique, we have now identified one promising class of regeneration enhancers."

The paper, "Large-scale in vivo femtosecond laser neurosurgery screen reveals small-molecule enhancer of regeneration," now appears in the Oct. 11, 2010 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lead authors of the paper are postdoctoral associate Chrysanthi Samara and EECS graduate students Christopher Rohde and Cody Gilleland, and collaborating chemists are Steve Haggarty and Stephanie Norton.

Development of the new technology and the regeneration screen was funded by the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award Program, a Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, an Alfred Sloan Award in Neuroscience, an NSF Graduate Fellowship and a Merck Graduate Fellowship.

Read more:

Yanik Lab’s high-throughput drug discovery technologies highlighted in The Economist, Nov. 29, 2010 "Testing drugs Mass-screening of drug candidates on tiny animals is now possible"

MIT News Office Oct. 12, 2010 article by Anne Trafton, "Nerve-cell regeneration quest is fast tracked. Microchip technology rapidly identifies compounds for regrowing nerves, in live animals."