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Sep 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 15)

Tackling Transfection's Complexity

Improved and New Reagents Facilitate Work with Difficult-to-Transfect Cells

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    Ever since the discovery of DNA’s double-helix structure, life scientists have been interested in somehow introducing foreign nucleic acid molecules into a host cell and expressing the genes encoded by it. Transfection is one of the most popular methods for doing so in mammalian cells.

    There are currently several transfection reagents available for research use, and more were recently introduced at the Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS) annual meeting. The meeting provided an update on transfection technology and reviewed some of the most recent additions including both electroporation-based and chemical-based transfection technologies.

    At the SBS meeting, James Brady, Ph.D., director of technical applications at MaxCyte, presented data on a rapid, automated, and scalable electroporation-based transfection technology. It was originally developed for clinical applications but now has broader research applications including high-throughput drug screening.

    The basic experimental outline for using this technology for clinical applications is: select patients with a specific disease; remove cells from the patient; transfect with plasmid DNA, messenger RNA, siRNA, proteins, or small molecules that enhance the biological activity of the cells using this technology; inject these transfected cells with enhanced potency back into the patient; and monitor response.

    “Although electroporation has been around for quite a while, we have developed a scalable method that can electroporate as few as half a million or up to 10 billion cells at one time in less than 30 minutes,” said Dr. Brady. “We sell our system to pharmaceutical companies that want to generate batches of cells for screening specific target molecules or specific reporters, and they want to avoid all the time and effort that is needed to make a stable cell line or to use an expensive transfection reagent.” 

    At the meeting, Dr. Brady and his colleagues provided data that was generated by some of MaxCyte’s customers showing that the technology has been used to screen ion channels, GPCRs, and other targets.

    “This technology works with a variety of critical targets and a variety of important cell types. It gives you assay results that are comparable to that in stable cell lines, and it can generate the cells much more quickly,” Dr. Brady concluded.

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