luorescent labeling is one of the most versatile tools that science has engineered over the last century. From DNA probes to protein labeling to immunoassays (like ELISAs) to microarray chips, fluorescent labeling has allowed us to see or detect the innermost workings of our world, the interactions of molecules without which we would not otherwise exist, and the tagging of millions of markers which are slowly (or rapidly, depending on your frame of reference) building our library of knowledge of DNA, proteins, inheritable traits and new, unique or evolving traits that define individuality.

Of the many inventions that are used daily in molecular biology (or just science in general), I think that I like the microarray the best! Maybe it was that the chips were becoming affordable and more widely used about the time that I started my science career. Or maybe it is the mind-numbingly huge number of things that can be answered or addressed at a single time by one teeny-weeny chip. Or maybe it was just that I enjoyed the beautiful, fluorescent spectrum of colors that appear almost as a strange Impressionist-meets-Abstract painting, but one that can finally be translated and interpreted to discover the real meaning behind the color combinations. Regardless, the technology is awesome!

Microarrays start with “the chip”. The first chip was an antibody microarray chip in the early 1980’s, invented by Tse Wen Chang. The basic premise was that a huge number of antibodies could be coated on a small surface area of a glass slide, which could then interact in an individual manner with a wide variety of antigens in order to see detailed and specific interactions that would otherwise be obscure in an ELISA test or Western blot. The microarray system has been reengineered and expanded many times since then, used now for protein interaction, DNA probing, tissue or histological studies and even organic compound chemical microarray. I’m sure that list can go on for quite a while further and I’d love to hear the research for which you’re specifically using microarray technology.

However, there is always room for improvements that may be made. In this case, a group from the Tokyo University of Technology think they’ve found a way to increase the sensitivity of the microarray glass chip even more. While this paper actually came out more than a year ago, I discovered it while searching for more, unique methods of utilizing biotin-streptavidin interactions. It’s always enjoyable when a new favorite study coincides with an old favorite!

Mitsuru Yasuda and Takuo Akimoto developed a method of creating a mirrored surface slide, called an Optical Interface Mirror (OIM) that has an optical interface (OI) layer on top of a plane surface mirror using silver (Ag) and aluminum oxide (Al2O3). To start, Yasuda and Akimoto aminated the OIM and coated the slide with biotin-NHS (you can find Gold Bio versions here). The slide was later washed with Streptavidin-Cy3 or Streptavidin-Cy5 in order to assess the level fluorescent detection compared to a basic glass slide. In short, they saw a fluorescence detection capability that was 2 orders of magnitude greater than a normal glass slide, a system which could potentially show us interactions or results that are simply too low to see currently on a standard microarray chip!

Innovations such as this one are what keep me excited about being in the science field and also excited to be part of a company like Gold Bio which strives to foster those kind of innovations by reducing the cost of the experiments. I can only imagine what will be discovered tomorrow…

Yasuda, M., & Akimoto, T. (2012). Highly Sensitive Fluorescence Detection of Avidin/Streptavidin with an Optical Interference Mirror Slide. Analytical Sciences, 28(10), 947-952.

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