Beyond Stone-Age Sample Prep
Miniature detection technologies are evolving fast – but unevolved sample preparation is holding us back.
Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte |
Miniature detection technologies have matured over the last decade thanks to significant investment from industry, funding agencies and investors. We can accurately identify target compounds using myriad technologies, including biosensors, spectrometers, PCR and sequencing. Highly abundant molecules, such as sodium and glucose, can now be monitored from a single blood drop using handheld systems, such as the i-STAT.
Unfortunately, when the target is of low abundance or contaminated with other substances, we’re still struggling. Prevention of sepsis, food poisoning and water contamination, as well as the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer, all depend on the timely detection of rare targets – pathogens and circulating tumor cells. In these cases, we still rely on a series of cumbersome processes to convert the sample we gather into suitable fractions for analysis. Sample preparation currently relies on a suite of instruments for centrifugation, re-suspension, lysing, filtering and sorting; cue extensive labeling, wet chemistry and endless pipetting – all carried out manually so that reproducibility is too often dependent on experience...
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