Biochips: “They are becoming increasingly important for drug research”

Photo: Holger Becker has talked to Doctor Holger Becker of microfluidic – ChipShop GmbH, event manager of the symposium, about the opportunities offered to medical technology by the biochips.
: Which types of biochips are currently used in medicine?

Holger Becker: There are two different biochip technologies. We distinguish between so-called arrays and microfluidic chips. The arrays consist of a flat glass or silicon surface on which specific sample molecules are attached. They bind a full string of DNA or RNA on themselves. Using the microfluidic chips, certain substances can be transported and manipulated. For such chips, an array can be used as a detection mechanism. In which areas of medicine are biochips used?

Becker: Most chips find their application in molecular and point-of-care diagnostics. Microfluidic chips make it possible to perform complex diagnostic assays in the field of molecular diagnostics. Point-of-care diagnostic was so far largely confined to relatively simple procedures such as test strips. With the methods of microfluidics we can bring significantly more complex diagnostic assays directly into the vicinity of the patient.


Photo: Application of capture molecules on a chip

In the field of companion diagnostics, there is a new treatment approach. The aim is to treat the patient with a personalized drug and then to review the effectiveness of the drug. This field is still not very well developed. But because microfluidics allows controlled working with very small substances, they will play a more and more important role in treatment and therapy monitoring. What future innovations can we expect in this area?

Becker: Except for personalized healthcare, biochips are increasingly finding their application in the production of a complete genomic information. Currently, the costs of sequencing are lying at approximately $ 1,000. To make it interesting for the public, the process must become much cheaper. By means of miniaturization, it may very well become possible for everyone to have their own genomic information sequenced for under $ 100 in the next five to ten years. Using microfluidic chips, some characteristics of the human organism can be reproduced. How does this influence basic research?

Becker: Biochips are becoming more important for drug research. Because the cell cultures in a Petri dish - on which drug tests have to be performed - have not much in common with real cells. Because of this, the results from such Petri dish in-vitro experiments are limited. With microchips, a stronger in-vivo situation for drug research can be induced. The results of such experiments are much more meaningful. This could have the additional advantage that we have would not have to resort to animal testing so often.

The interview was conducted by Michalina Chrzanowska