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Fast-forwarding evolution to select suitable proteins

4286076672_2763323a1e_zNature churns out new versions of proteins in response to environment changes or random mutations. Sometimes the new versions work better than old. Other times, not.

But now, Stanford researchers have developed a super speedy technique to test millions of versions of a certain protein to see which one works best.

A Stanford news release explains:

The researchers call their tool µSCALE, or Single Cell Analysis and Laser Extraction.

The "µ" stands for the microcapillary glass slide that holds the protein samples. The slide is roughly the size and thickness of a penny, yet in that space a million capillary tubes are arrayed like straws, open on the top and bottom.

The microcapillary glass slide, roughly the size and thickness of a penny, holds the protein samples.

The power of µSCALE is how it enables researchers to build upon current biochemical techniques to run a million protein experiments simultaneously, then extract and further analyze the most promising results.

The research was led by Jennifer Cochran, PhD, associate professor of bioengineering and Thomas Baer, PhD, executive director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center.

The system is easy to use with numerous applications, Baer said.

"Evolution, the survival of the fittest, takes place over a span of thousands of years, but we can now direct proteins to evolve in hours or days," Cochran said in the release.

Previously: Proteins from pond scum revolutionize neuroscience, Study shows toothed whales have persisted millions of years without two common antiviral proteins and Computing our evolution
Photo by Alexander Boden

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