Assembly of Ordered Microsphere Arrays: Platforms for Microarrays

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Microarrays are powerful tools in gene expression assessment, protein profiling, and protein function screening, as well as cell and tissue analysis. With thousands of small array spots assembled in an ordered array, these small devices makes it possible to screen for multiple targets in a fast, parallel, high-throughput manner. The well-developed technology of DNA microarrays, also called DNA chips, has proved successful in all kinds of biological experiments, including the human genome-sequencing project. The development of protein arrays has lagged behind that of DNA arrays mainly because of the greater complexity of proteins. Some parts of the microarray technology can be transplanted into the realm of protein arrays, while others cannot. The challenges from the complexity of protein targets demand more robust and powerful devices. Traditional planar arrays, in which proteins bind directly to a planar surface, have a drawback in that some proteins will be denatured or cluster together after immobilization. Microsphere-based microarrays represent a more advanced strategy. The functional proteins are first attached to microspheres; these microspheres are then immobilized in arrays on a planar surface. In this dissertation, two approaches to assembling arrays of microspheres will be discussed. The hydrodynamic approach uses surface micromachining and Deep Reactive Ion Etching techniques to form an array of channels through a silicon wafer. By drawing fluid containing the microspheres through the channels they become trapped in the channels and thereby immobilized. In the magnetic approach, permalloy films are deposited on a silicon substrate and subsequently patterned to form magnetic attachment sites. An external magnetic field is then applied and the magnetic microspheres then assemble on these sites. Both devices are able to immobilize microspheres in an ordered array, as opposed to coarsely grouping them in array spots. The assembled arrays are robust in that they ensure a resolution rate of almost 100%. In addition, different patterns of array spots with various spacings and diameters can be fabricated to satisfy different requirements. Moreover, the devices are easy to clean and reuse, and the experimental set-ups are relatively simple and portable. All these features make them good platforms for all kinds of microarrays.

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  • 09/19/2018
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