Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Intel Corp. have collaborated to synthesize and study a grid-like array of short pieces of a disease-associated protein on silicon chips normally used in computer microprocessors. They used this chip, which was created through a process used to make semiconductors, to identify patients with a particularly severe form of the autoimmune disease lupus.
Although the new technology is focused on research applications, it has the potential to eventually improve diagnoses of a multitude of diseases, as well as to determine more quickly what drugs may be most effective for a particular patient. It may also speed drug development by enabling researchers to better understand how proteins interact in the body.
"When I see patients in the clinic right now, I may know they have arthritis, but I don't know which of the 20 or 30 types of the disease they have," said associate professor of medicine Paul (P.J.) Utz, MD, noting that existing methods can take days or even weeks to answer such questions. "Now we can measure thousands of protein interactions at a time, integrate this information to diagnose the disease and even determine how severe it may be. We may soon be able to do this routinely while the patient is still in the physician's office."