Leading the way to a cure

Lupus Research Update: 2012 Volume 4

Volume 4, 2012 - Online Edition | In This Issue

2012: A Year of Tremendous Achievement >
Silicon Chip May Offer More Complete Diagnosis >
Insights into Lupus: Looking at Chromosomal Variations >
Collaboration Aims to Swiftly Develop New Lupus Therapies >
Faces of Lupus: A Mother and Daughter Story >
Lupus News Corner >

Silicon Chip May Offer More Complete Diagnosis

Studying proteins on silicon chips, like those used in microprocessors, isn't science fiction in today's fastpaced scientific laboratories.

Dr. Paul "PJ" Utz has always been fascinated by the way proteins trigger a dizzying succession of physical reactions in human cells. So he and fellow researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine began asking some rudimentary questions — Why does one protein hook-up with another? And why are subsequent biological repercussions so significant in disease?

They may have found answers. In a collaborative effort with Intel Corp., they were able to synthesize segments of biological proteins, called peptides, onto silicon wafers, or chips.

Now at Stanford, using the chips, they're analyzing thousands of protein interactions. What they uncover promises to offer better diagnostic tools, enhanced assessment of therapies, and the design of more-effective drugs.

"Silicon doesn't adhere to proteins as much as glass does, so signal detection is easier and less effort is necessary to block the random binding of blood to substrate," Dr. Utz explains. "Additionally, individual peptides may be arranged closer together, using space more efficiently."

With the ALR's funding, Dr. Utz is investigating two classes of lupus-related molecules: inflammatory interferons and ctyokines: proteins that immune cells release to fight off infections.

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