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24 Automated In Vitro Selection and Microarray Applications for Functional RNA Sequences

Andrew D. Ellington, J. Colin Cox, Jennifer F. Lee, James R. Collett


As experimental biology begins to address questions at the systems level, where data from multiple genes or proteins must be analyzed in parallel, laboratory-based automation of experimental procedures becomes increasingly important. Indeed, the various fields of genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, combinatorial chemistry, and high-throughput screening deal with so many individual molecules and conditions that experiments can be daunting or intractable to perform without mechanization.

Initial forays into laboratory automation yielded robotically performed experimental procedures that replaced repetitive and laborious practices such as microarray creation and processing, plasmid purification, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), or DNA sequencing reactions (Hunkapiller et al. 1991; Civitello et al. 1992; Meier-Ewert et al. 1993; Boland et al 1994; Gonzalez et al. 1996; Macas et al. 1998; Saborio et al. 1998; Wang et al. 1998). More recently, the integration of these individual procedures into fully automated systems has facilitated the execution of larger-scale experiments. These include projects such as automated protein crystallization and analysis (Weselak et al. 2003), mass spectroscopy for protein–ligand interactions (Benkestock et al. 2003), expression of soluble recombinant proteins (Busso et al. 2003), mammalian cell-line propagation and preparation (Chapman 2003), and the sequencing of the human genome (McPherson et al. 2001; Venter et al. 2001).

As laboratory robotics becomes more modular and pervasive in common research settings, it is likely that molecular and cellular biology labs will possess robust robotic platforms that routinely tend to lengthy and repetitive tasks and thus provide the end-user with more analysis and management time. For instance, scientists...

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