Nanobead Technology Can Speed Up Drug Discovery

July 16, 2010

The future of drug testing may come to include the use of nanoscopic beads that can match a drug to a disease marker and uncover viable treatments, if the results of a study published in the Journal of Molecular Recognition are taken into consideration.

The future of drug testing may come to include the use of nanoscopic beads that can match a drug to a disease marker and uncover viable treatments, if the results of a study published in the Journal of Molecular Recognition are taken into consideration.

This can eventually help speed up the process of developing drugs as well, according to a press release.

The bead system, called Lab-on-Bead, uses plastic beads that are so small “1,000 of them would fit across a human hair.” These beads are studded with pins and match a drug to a disease marker to help indicate which combinations are suitable for creating a treatment. This process increases drug discovery by as much as 10,000 times, which can eventually cut years out of testing in labs.

"It helps the most interesting new drugs work together to stick their heads up above the crowd," said Jed C. Macosko, Ph.D., an associate professor of Physics at Wake Forest and primary inventor of the Lab-on-Bead technology, in a press release. "Each type of drug has its own molecular barcode. Then, with the help of matching DNA barcodes on each nanoscopic bead, all the drugs of a certain type find their own 'home' bead and work together to make themselves known in our drug discovery process. It's kind of like when Dr. Seuss's Whos down in Whoville all yelled together so that Horton the elephant and all of his friends could hear them."

The next step for researchers, Macosko and Martin Guthold, Ph.D., an associate professor of physics at Wake Forest and the co-inventor of Lab-on-Bead, is to work with NanoMedica, Inc. to test how the tool can be used with drug companies.

So far, the research team has focused on the breast cancer cell HER2 as a target of research.

"We want to find a molecule that detects that cancer cell," Guthold said, in a press release. "In that circumstance, you could use Lab-on-Bead as a diagnostic tool."