Miniaturizing laboratory procedures to save time and energy is the goal of Steve Shih, a professor in Concordia University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Along with his team, Professor Shih is working on the miniaturization and standardization of lab-on-a-chip devices that could help solve a number of health and climate challenges. Ultimately, these devices would be able to perform the same chemical reactions and analyses as in chemistry or biology laboratories but using just a few drops of solution rather than large volumes. These tiny devices also make it possible to automate certain aspects of chemical or biological analysis (sample and mixture preparation, molecule detection, etc.), and thus boost efficiency.
As part of his research funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, Steve Shih and his laboratory team set out to identify enzymes—a type of protein—that could help break down biomass from corn, sugarcane and switchgrass to make biofuels. The researchers, whose results have been published in the scientific literature, now need to demonstrate the feasibility of this technology on a larger scale to see if the solution is viable in the real world and could ultimately be used for industrial applications.
These micro-laboratories have also demonstrated their versatility. For example, the research team used the same types of equipment to find a protein that could help combat fungal diseases affecting crops in the field. Researchers are also looking at proteins found on the surface of cancer cells in order to develop new treatments and customize existing ones to improve their efficacy.
Steve Shih is now looking to standardize his lab-on-a-chip to make it easy for others to use it for their own applications.
Fungal disease: : https://doi.org/10.1038/s41378-022-00456-1