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Cell membrane on a chip could speed up screening of drug candidates for COVID-19

Date: 6.7.2020 

Researchers have developed a human cell 'membrane on a chip' that allows continuous monitoring of how drugs and infectious agents interact with our cells, and may soon be used to test potential drug candidates for COVID-19.

Kredit: Susan Daniel/Cornell University.The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, Cornell University and Stanford University, say their device could mimic any cell type – bacterial, human or even the tough cells walls of plants. Their research recently pivoted to how COVID-19 attacks human cell membranes and, more importantly, how it can be blocked.

The devices have been formed on chips while preserving the orientation and functionality of the cell membrane and have been successfully used to monitor the activity of ion channels, a class of protein in human cells which are the target of more than 60% of approved pharmaceuticals.

The device uses an electronic chip to measure any changes in an overlying membrane extracted from a cell, enabling the scientists to safely and easily understand how the cell interacts with the outside world. The device integrates cell membranes with conducting polymer electrodes and transistors.

"The device can be as small as the size of a human cell and easily fabricated in arrays, which allows us to perform multiple measurements at the same time," said Dr. Anna-Maria Pappa, also from Cambridge and joint first author on both papers.





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