NASA SBIR 2003 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER:03-B2.03-7301 (For NASA Use Only - Chron: 035706)
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Understanding and Utilizing Gravitational Effects on Molecular Biology and for Medical Applications
PROPOSAL TITLE:A Novel Microfluidic Device for Fully Automated Extraction of RNA from Cell Cultures

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
CFD Research Corp
215 Wynn Dr.
Huntsville ,AL 35805 - 1926
(256) 726 - 4800

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Shivshankar   Sundaram
215 Wynn Dr., Suite 501
Huntsville ,AL  35805 -1926
(256) 726 - 4858
U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident: Yes

Differential gene expression by RNA profiling is a universal and critical step in space biology experiments, which seek to link specific molecular events with disease phenotypes. Current RNA preparation methods are tedious, require substantial astronaut time, and necessitate exposure to toxic chemicals. They often have poor, unreliable yields due to RNase contamination. Our overall objective is to develop and commercialize a microfluidics based miniaturized platform (MED-RNA) that can fully automate the complex process of RNA extraction. Starting from harvested whole mammalian cells in a culture medium, MED-RNA will lyse, capture, extract/isolate and freeze/store RNA content for later analysis, in a fully integrated fashion with minimal user intervention. In addition to higher yields and faster process times, losses and contamination will be minimized as a result of the miniaturization and automation. A novel and unique plastic card based fabrication technology from Micronics Corp. will be leveraged for low-cost microfabrication. In Phase I, we will develop detailed design for the microfluidic lab card and the integrated system. We will also fabricate and demonstrate critical components (lysis and capture) of MED-RNA. The design process will be based on the state-of-the-art, multiphysics biochip design software from CFDRC. In Phase II, a fully integrated microfluidic lab card (including storage) will be developed and demonstrated on chosen cell lines.

Obtaining high-quality, intact RNA is often the most critical step in performing many fundamental molecular biology experiments, including northern blot analysis, nuclease protection assays, in vitro translation, reverse transcription PCR, and cDNA library construction. NASA is launching a sustained Space Biology program focused on in-vivo health monitoring and therapy on the Earth and in space. where microgravity allows unique studies on cell and tissue development and behavior. Current space biomedical and cancer research includes efficacy testing of drugs and biomodulators on growth and physiology of normal and transformed cells, and methods for measuring specific cellular and systemic immune functions of persons under physiological stress etc. where MED-RNA can play a invaluable role in increasing mission efficiency (more successful experiments, less astronaut time).

Nucleic acid extraction is a cornerstone of biology and our proposed automated, microfluidic platform will have a wide range of applications in the life sciences arena. In the commercial sector, we will target several different markets including:
Pharmaceutical and drug discovery
Pre-clinical and clinical research
Hospital & health site monitoring (for infectious diseases)
Agricultural research divisions (genetically modified food program, etc.)

A valuable by-product of this effort will be a well-validated simulation tool for the development of other microfluidic devices for cellular analysis. The developed models will be integrated with our industry leading multiphysics software CFD-ACE+ and made available to users with specific needs via product customization.