The Walt Laboratory at Tufts University is world-renowned for its pioneering work in fiber-optic microarray technology which is used in solving urgent biological problems such as the detection of infectious diseases, diagnostics for cancer biomarkers and in answering fundamental questions on basic biological processes such as enzymology and protein folding.
Fiber optic bundles are used in our lab to develop bead-based assays for early and non-invasive detection of breast cancer and infectious diseases in clinical and environmental samples. The high density array of femtoliter wells that can be created on the fiber optic bundle enables us to trap and detect biomolecules at the attomolar (aM) to femtomolar (fM) range enabling ultrasensitive measurements. Single molecule analysis technology such as fiber optic arrays and Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (TIRFM) are used to study fundamental processes such as enzyme and nanoparticle catalysis, protein conformational changes, enzyme inhibition and substrate specificity of enzymes at the single molecule level. The lab also focuses on developing microfluidic and optical trapping methods to enable an automated investigation of single molecules and single cells.
"Our laboratory investigates new ways to measure things," explains Prof. David R. Walt. "We create very small arrays containing thousands of features—ten thousand features can easily fit on the head of a pin. Researchers in the laboratory use these arrays to study fundamental aspects of biochemistry, protein function, gene expression, cell biology, and they also develop practical ways to measure such things as protein and cytokine levels in blood."