Forum 09/16/2010

“Miniaturized high-throughput RNAi screens – growing opportunities for automated microscopy, analysis and information handling”

Tilak Jain, Ph.D. – Staff Scientist Chemical Physiology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA

Gene silencing using RNAi has become a prominent biological tool for gene annotation, pathway analysis and target discovery in mammalian cells. High-throughput screens conducted using whole-genome RNAi libraries have recently uncovered rich sets of novel genes in a variety of biological processes. However, high-throughput RNAi screening is overtly expensive in its current technological form – preventing its regular usage in common laboratories. Miniaturizing the technology platform to reduce cost and increase throughput / efficiency is required to enable its widespread use and to harness its potential for rapid whole-genome screens. Miniaturization efforts include microfabrication and nanoliter dispensing techniques to develop microwell arrays loaded with RNAi molecules – having integrated capability for ultra-high-throughput parallel electroporation of mammalian cells. These advances in miniaturization of RNAi screening technology will greatly depend on automated microscopy, image analysis and information handling required for phenotype recognition and data set integration providing growing opportunities for expert collaborations.