Western blot


May 1, 2013
This article appeared in Berkeley Engineer magazine, Spring 2013

Not only did 1979 bring us the Sony Walkman, but it also saw the introduction of the Western blot, now a cornerstone of laboratory work in molecular biology. This commonly used technique to detect specific proteins has remained basically unchanged since its debut, despite the fact that it is both time consuming and laborious. But scientists may now have a better version to work with. Bioengineering professor Amy Herr and graduate student Alex Hughes have created an automated system that can perform 48 Western blots at once, in less than an hour’s time. The researchers’ streamlined device is made up of microfluidic channels on a standard-sized microscope slide, and uses equipment and reagents that are readily available to scientists. Not only does their Western blot allow scientists to process and analyze samples more quickly, but it can also obtain results with smaller amounts of protein.