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Life Tech Launches miRNA Assay Panels for OpenArray Platform

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Life Technologies this week launched its TaqMan OpenArray MicroRNA panels, combining the company's legacy TaqMan human miRNA assays with the nanofluidic OpenArray gene expression platform Life Tech acquired along with BioTrove in 2009.

In addition, Life Tech disclosed that the laboratory of Victor Ambros at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and affiliated RNAi Therapeutics Institute is an early-access customer of the product.

Life Tech said that it developed the miRNA panels for the OpenArray platform to meet industry demand for high-throughput global screening using the company's more than 750 pre-designed human miRNA assays.

The company's Applied Biosystems business first launched TaqMan assays for mature miRNAs in 2005, and Life Tech has since added assays to that portfolio. Then, in early 2010, Life Tech added to its stable of products TaqMan assays for measuring the activity of primary miRNAs and non-coding miRNAs (PCR Insider, 1/21/10).

Unlike Life Tech's conventional TaqMan assays, its miRNA assays use a novel stem-loop primer during the reverse transcription reaction. This provides several advantages, including extending the miRNA sequence to create a longer cDNA molecule that can be more easily detected using TaqMan chemistry; interfering with unwanted hybridization of the primer to longer miRNA precursors and genomic DNA; and enhancing stability of miRNA-primer complexes, thus improving efficiency and assay sensitivity, the company said.

These features are important because the short nature of miRNA sequences, around 22 nucleotides, makes them challenging to detect and quantify using traditional DNA-based analysis tools, according to the company.

In addition, current methods for global profiling of miRNA expression are relatively low-throughout, which is why Life Tech combined its miRNA assays with the OpenArray platform, which consists of a stainless steel nanofluidic array the size of a microscope slide and includes 3,072 photolithographically patterned through-holes arranged in 48 groups of 64.

Each through-hole features a differential hydrophilic-hydrophobic coating that creates individual reaction vessels for isolated PCR reactions. As such, researchers using the TaqMan miRNA assays on the OpenArray platform can generate more than 27,000 miRNA data points per day by screening 754 unique human miRNAs per sample for up to 36 samples, the company said.

"We are pleased with the high throughput and ease of use of the OpenArray platform for miRNA TaqMan assays," Ambros said in a statement. "We also find attractive the lower costs per sample on account of the reduced use of reagents compared to other real-time PCR platforms."

Ambros did not specify which real-time PCR platforms his lab was comparing the OpenArray platform to. In an e-mail to PCR Insider, he said that it was too early to comment on such specifics, as the lab is still evaluating the TaqMan OpenArray miRNA panels.

The new panels are the second application for the OpenArray system that Life Tech has introduced since it acquired BioTrove in December 2009 for an undisclosed amount (PCR Insider, 12/17/09).

In November of last year, Life Tech introduced a kit to perform digital PCR applications such as rare allele detection and absolute quantitation on the OpenArray platform (PCR Insider, 11/4/10).

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