Yanik team advances 'lab on a chip'

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April 11, 2008

EECS assistant professor and member of the Research Lab of Electronics, Mehmet Fatih Yanik and his team have announced a significant advance in the lab on a chip technique which they first reported in 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (See MIT News Office August 20 article).

Yanik's 2007 announcement was unique because it provided the first and only method for studying genetic and neurological traits on whole animals, such as the C. elegans worm, one of the smallest most commonly examined laboratory multicellular organisms--in relatively short time spans and with high accuracy. The research on C. elegans, since the 1960s, has been slow but important for contributions toward ultimately understanding biologically shared traits with humans, such as aging, fat metabolism and neurological diseases.

Now, as announced in the journal Lab on a Chip, Yanik and lead authors RLE postdoctoral fellow Fei Zeng, and EECS graduate student Christopher B. Rohde, have reported their ability to render the laboratory worms motionless in the chip with both high stability and for several minutes (instead of seconds). This achievement allows the researchers not only to conduct three-dimensional imaging of the worms at the sub-cellular resolution but also to reliably operate on the animals with a high-precision surgery laser to study neural degeneration and regeneration on the chip.

As reported in the April 10, 2008, MIT News Office article, Yanik states: "This new technology is allowing us to study the entire genome of the animal in very short periods of time. We are currently combining it with genetic and drug screens to study neural regeneration."

Yanik received the NIH Director's Innovator Award last year for developing the lab on a chip technology to screen whole animals and study neural regeneration.

The research was funded by NIH Director's New Innovator Award (1-DP2-OD002989-01) and Packard Award in Engineering and Science, and Merck & Co. Inc.