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Encapsulated reagents and methods of use

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Title: Encapsulated reagents and methods of use.
Abstract: The present invention contemplates use of encapsulated aqueous and non-aqueous reagents, solutions and solvents and their use in laboratory procedures. These encapsulated aqueous or non-aqueous reagents, solutions and solvents can be completely contained or encapsulated in microcapsules or nanocapsules that can be added to an aqueous or non-aqueous carrier solution or liquid required for medical and research laboratory testing of biological or non-biological specimens. ...

Inventor: Lee H. Angros
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120107834 - Class: 435 75 (USPTO) - 05/03/12 - Class 435 
Chemistry: Molecular Biology And Microbiology > Measuring Or Testing Process Involving Enzymes Or Micro-organisms; Composition Or Test Strip Therefore; Processes Of Forming Such Composition Or Test Strip >Involving Antigen-antibody Binding, Specific Binding Protein Assay Or Specific Ligand-receptor Binding Assay >Involving Avidin-biotin Binding

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120107834, Encapsulated reagents and methods of use.

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The present application claims priority from 35 U.S.C. 371 of International Application PCT/US2010/021200, filed Jan. 15, 2010, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/145,269, filed Jan. 16, 2009, the entire contents of each of which is hereby expressly incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.


Not applicable.


In a microscope slide treatment method known in the prior art, a test specimen which is attached to a microscope slide is treated using two phase-separating liquids. In this method, first, an aqueous reagent is placed on an upper surface of the microscope slide to which the specimen is attached. Then a layer of mineral oil or other immiscible oil is placed over the aqueous reagent. The two different phases remain separated even after stirring or agitation. This is desired in this example, however, because the purpose of the placement of the oil layer over the aqueous reagent is to reduce the evaporation of the aqueous reagent during the timed incubation steps (e.g., heating). However, this method requires two separate steps to dispose the reagent and oil on the slide. For example, in one alternative, the aqueous reagent is placed over the biological specimen first and then, in a second step, the oil layer is placed over the aqueous reagent. Alternatively, one could envision first placing the oil layer over the biological specimen, and then placing the aqueous reagent onto the oil layer thereby wherein the aqueous reagent then submerges through the oil layer to the microscope slide surface whereby the oil layer floats on top of the aqueous reagent. A significant disadvantage of this method is that the aqueous layer tends to remain localized at the specific location where the aqueous reagent was first placed on the slide, once the oil layer is placed thereon. If the aqueous reagent is placed on top of the oil layer so the aqueous reagent layer passes through the oil layer but the aqueous reagent layer partially or entirely misses the specimen by not covering the whole specimen area, the aqueous reagent layer is fixed in that exact position once it passes through the oil layer and thus the specimen is not treated with the aqueous reagent. If one were to place, for example, a stir stick or stir device through the oil layer and down to the aqueous layer to mix or move the aqueous layer, the aqueous reagent tends to remain in its original location of placement and cannot be moved to a more useful or appropriate area upon or around the slide or specimen. This reduces the ability of the specimen to react with the reagent in this method. A solution to this problem to increase the efficiency of the process and to minimize the chances of damaging the specimen is desirable.



The present invention contemplates use of encapsulated aqueous and non-aqueous reagents, solutions and solvents and their use in laboratory procedures. These encapsulated aqueous or non-aqueous reagents, solutions and solvents can be completely contained or encapsulated in microcapsules or nanocapsules that can be added to an aqueous or non-aqueous carrier solution or liquid required for medical and research laboratory testing of biological or non-biological specimens (also referred to herein as “testing” or “test” specimens). Where used herein the term “encapsulated reagent” is intended to refer also to “microencapsulated reagents” and/or to “nanoencapsulated reagents”. Further, where used herein, the term “capsule” is intended to refer to “microcapsules” or “nanocapsules”.

Where used herein the term “biological specimen” includes, but is not limited to, unprocessed specimens, processed specimens, paraffin embedded tissue, whole mounts, frozen sections, cell preps, cell suspensions, touch preps, thin preps, cytospins, and other biological materials or molecules including blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluids, pleural fluids, ascites fluids, biopsy materials, fine needle aspirates, pap smears, swabbed cells or tissues, microbiological preps including bacteria, viruses, parasites, protozoans, biochemicals including, but not limited to proteins, DNA, RNA, carbohydrates, lipids, ELISA reagents and analytes, synthetic macromolecules, phospholipids, support structures of biological molecules (e.g., metals, beads, plastics, polymers, glass), or any other materials attached to a biological testing substrate for processing, examination, or observation.

The capsules of the present invention are generally considered to have diameters in the range of from less than 0.001 angstrom (0.0001 nm) to 3000 microns (3000 μm). Preferably the range is from 1 angstrom (0.1 nm) to 1000 micrometers. The range can also be from 1 nanometer to 1000 microns. The shells or encapsulating material that make up the microcapsules or nanocapsules can be gelatin, polyvinyl alcohol, urea, melamine formaldehyde polymers, acrylics, urethanes, vinyl acetate copolymers, oily, lipid, or non-aqueous soluble materials and polymers, water, or aqueous based materials and polymers. The encapsulation processes used to form the encapsulated reagents include, but are not limited to, coacervation, vapor deposition, fluid bed coating, entrapment/matrix, macro-emulsion, mini-emulsion, micro-emulsion, micro-encapsulation techniques, macro-encapsulation techniques, dispersion polymerization, in situ polymerization, liposomal, alginate encapsulation, solvent phase separation, and pan coating. The micro- or nanoencapsulated reagent product can be delivered as a dry, free-flowing powder, as a slurry, or in the form of wet filter cake.

Reagents and compounds which may be microencapsulated or nanoencapsulated as contemplated for use in the present invention include, by way of example only, not by way of limitation, Dextran sulfate, formamide, SSC (sodium chloride sodium citrate solutions), DI water, Millipore™ water, RNAase-free and DNAase-free water, DAPI counter stain, propidium iodine counterstain, counterstains, salts, buffers, chemicals, DNA probes, RNA probes, protein probes, antibodies, monoclonal antibodies, polyclonal antibodies, probes, detection reagents, stains, biological stains, dyes, washes, rinses, enzymes, antigen retrieval solutions or buffers, ionic, non-ionic, anionic, cationic, neutral detergents and surfactants, thermoplastics, mountants, oils, lipids, phospholipids, molecular biological building blocks, carbohydrates, sugars, lyophilized or desiccated powder or dry reagents that can be reconstituted with and aqueous or non-aqueous solution, preservatives, cover slip media, liquified thermoplastic cover slip medias, xylene, toluene, acetone, petroleum distillates, ferrofluids, magnetic particles in a fluid, colloidal gold conjugated reagents, iron-containing fluids, iron particles, magnetic particles, organic solvents, inorganic solvents, aqueous solvents, non-aqueous solvents, lipid based solvents, emulsions, liquid chemicals, Histology clearing reagents, Histology deparaffinizing reagents, Histology hydrating reagents, Histology dehydrating reagents, Histology fixatives, formaldehyde, alcohols, polyols, magnetic particle powders, powders, lyophilized reagents, lyophilized antibodies, lyophilized molecular probes like RNA and DNA, dry chemicals, dry, powdered, or lyophilized stains and reagents, fluorescent conjugated reagents like antibodies, stains, and molecular probes, and detection reagents, chromogens, DAB, hydrogen peroxide, naphthol phosphate, fast red chromogen, acids, bases, HCL, formic acid, glacial acetic acid, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, aqueous and non aqueous liquids, and any other reagent and/or chemicals including liquids, dry reagents, desiccated reagents, gel reagents, colloidal reagents, emulsions reagents and any other reagent or chemical known in the art of medical and research laboratory testing reagents or chemicals. These reagents will be referred to herein as “encapsulated reagents”. The solutions or liquids to which these encapsulated reagents can be added may be referred to elsewhere herein as “solutions” or more particularly as “carrier solutions”. The above is exemplary only and is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the reagents or compounds which may be encapsulated or used herein.

Examples contemplated herein of the use of these encapsulated reagents include for example (1) addition of aqueous-based encapsulated reagents to non-aqueous based solutions, (2) addition of non-aqueous based encapsulated reagents to aqueous-based solutions, (3) addition of aqueous-based encapsulated reagents to aqueous-based solutions, (4) addition of non-aqueous based encapsulated reagents to non-aqueous based encapsulated solutions, and (5) addition of both aqueous-based and non-aqueous based encapsulated reagents to either an aqueous- or non-aqueous solution, and wherein the resulting combination solutions contain such encapsulated reagents in a homogenous, soluble, or colloidal, emulsions, or at least partially soluble liquid mixture.

It is known that when adding a typical aqueous-based reagent to a non-aqueous solution, or vice-versa, the two different phases separate. There is therefore a need to be able to mix aqueous-based reagents with non-aqueous-based solutions, and non-aqueous-based reagents with aqueous-based solutions to form homogenous solutions of both the reagent and the solution without the usual phase separation of both. Encapsulation of the reagent as contemplated herein enables the formation of such homogenous mixtures.

The problem in the prior art method described above in the Background may be addressed by using a three-step procedure involving first disposing an aqueous detergent-containing layer over the entire area of the slide (or analytic substrate, as defined herein) where one would like the aqueous reagent layer to be positioned once the oil layer is added, or vice versa. In this method, an aqueous detergent-containing layer can be placed first on the microscope slide, followed by addition of the aqueous reagent layer, and then followed by addition of the oil layer in a third subsequent step. In the presence of these three layers, the aqueous reagent layer can be moved or mixed on the slide anywhere the aqueous detergent layer is present. However, this method is highly inefficient in both time, materials, and cost required to perform a staining protocol which requires an oil layer or liquid phase/separation protocol. A further disadvantage of this three-step method is that the aqueous detergent layer must always be added first, though either the aqueous reagent layer, or the oil layer can be added next. Still, whether the oil layer is added, second or third following addition of the aqueous reagent layer, it is obvious that the method is still requires three separate steps and is a costly time and material consuming protocol.

The present invention provides a solution to the problems of the prior art method. In the present invention, one or more reagents which are encapsulated, by microencapsulation and/or nanoencapsulation, are added to aqueous or non-aqueous solutions for use as single ready-to-use solutions for laboratory testing of specimens. The physical and/or chemical makeup of the encapsulated reagents is such that the microcapsule or nanocapsule containing the reagent is soluble, at least partial soluble, or colloidal in a solution which has a different liquid phase or density than that of the encapsulated reagent. In an alternative embodiment, the encapsulated reagents have the same or similar densities or liquid phase of the solution. Further, the microcapsule or nanocapsule could have the same or similar density or the same or similar liquid phase of the solution regardless if the reagent encapsulated therein has the same or similar liquid phase or density. It is an object of the present invention to encapsulate reagents wherein the chemical and/or physical properties of the encapsulating material (the outer shell of the capsule) are like or similar to that of the solution to which the encapsulated reagent will be added thereby allowing the capsules to be soluble, at least partially soluble, or colloidal in or with the solution. The reagent, once encapsulated, therefore would be soluble, at least partially soluble, or colloidal in relation to the solution. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a solution comprising at least one encapsulated reagent which has a density different from the solution, is provided and applied to a specimen. In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, a solution is provided which has at least one encapsulated reagent having a density which is the same as or similar to the solution containing it, then the solution is applied to a specimen.

The analytic substrates used in the present invention may be constructed of glass, plastic, synthetic polymers, ceramics, or metals and may be of any size or shape known in the art of laboratory examination, for example including any laboratory support structure or testing structure or device used in laboratory testing or examination including, but not limited to, microscope analytic plates, analytic substrates, medical and research laboratory testing substrates, diagnostic substrates, biological testing substrates, substrates, microscope slides, test tubes, Petri dishes, micro arrays, biochips, testing plates, containers, beads, and testing strips and any other natural or synthetic substrate or device used in the art for medical, research, laboratory, and diagnostic testing, in-vitro testing and/or analysis of at least one biological specimen.

The process wherein the microcapsule or nanocapsule opens or disintegrates upon the analytic substrate to release the reagent contained therein is referred to herein as “disruption”. Disruption, once started, can be immediate (i.e., “immediate release”), or can be a slow or gradual release (i.e., “controlled” or “timed” release). The type of disruption necessary for the capsule to release its contents is referred to herein as the “disruption mode”. The causes or stimuli of the disruption mode can be, for example, temperature changes or differentials, high temperature (e.g., 150° C.-200° C.), medium temperature (e.g., 100° C.-150° C.), low temperature (e.g., 25° C.-100° C.), heat, mechanical disruption, e.g., by agitation, sonic disruption, magnetic disruption, electric disruption, microwave disruption, UV light, infrared light, laser light, light, other types of electromagnetic radiation or energy, pH changes, pressure differentials, high pressure, medium pressure, low pressure, pressure changes above or below atmospheric (e.g., pressures of 1 psig-5000 psig; 1-10 psig; 10-50 psig; 50-100 psig; 100-150 psig; 150-200 psig; 200-300 psig; 300-500 psig; or 500-5000 psig), vacuum, and vacuum changes, time release, time dependent, chemical reactions, chemical changes, and physical reactions, and physical changes. Various disruption modes can be combined, e.g., temperature and pressure; pH and heat; time and pressure; and pressure and time, for example.

In an alternate embodiment, the “disruption” of the microcapsule or nanocapsules contained within a carrier solution occurs upon the combination of the carrier solution with at least one other solution or compound. The carrier solution in this embodiment has at least one reagent present in a microcapsule or nanocapsule, and the second solution optionally has at least one microcapsule or nanocapsule present which encapsulates a reagent. If the second solution doesn\'t have any encapsulated reagent present, the chemical activity, physical activity, or reaction when combining with the second solution can initiate disruption of the microcapsule or nanocapsule in the carrier solution. The combination of at least two solutions (carrier and second solution) each having at least one reagent present in a microcapsule or nanocapsule or only one of the two solutions having encapsulated reagent present when mixed can, in alternate embodiment, now “activate” (disrupt) the microcapsule(s) or nanocapsule(s) in the combined solutions. Activation of the microcapsule or nanocapsule is intended to mean the ability for the microcapsule or nanocapsule to become unstable or disruptable only after the at least two solutions are combined, wherein if the solutions are not combined, the microcapsule or nanocapsule are stable against disruption modes when they are in their separate solutions. Only when the at least two solution are mixed together are the microcapsule or nanocapsule disruptable in this embodiment. In an alternative embodiment, there can be one or more solutions combined to “activate” any microcapsule or nanocapsule present in at least one of the solutions of the combination.

A solution of the present invention may comprise an encapsulated reagent wherein the capsule is responsive to a single type of disruption mode, e.g., a pressure or sonic sensitive encapsulation, or a single solution may comprise a plurality of encapsulated reagents each wherein each type of capsule is responsive to a different type of disruption mode. In one embodiment, for example, a solution could contain three types of encapsulated reagents, each used in one of three different steps of a test protocol. For example, the first encapsulated reagent having a capsule with a “heating” disruption mode could be released to react with the slide specimen when the slide is heated. The second and third encapsulated reagents could have capsules having disruption modes which were not activated by or affected by heat but which were activated by a pH change or pressure change, for example, or other condition described herein.

As explained herein, embodiments of the present invention include carrier solutions which comprise only a single type of solute and carrier solutions which comprise multiple (two or more) solutes. In one embodiment of the present invention, the carrier solution can be mixed with another solution or solutions absent encapsulated reagent(s) or with encapsulated reagents, wherein the mixing of the two solutions may cause disruption of a encapsulated reagent in one, both, or all of the solutions, or the mixing of the two solutions does not disrupt the encapsulated reagent(s) but rather the mixed solutions remain in association with each other as a homogenous mixture, colloidal mixture, emulsion solution, phase separated solution, suspension solution, miscible solution, or immiscible solution, which the encapsulated reagents remain in an intact encapsulated condition. A list of reagents which may be encapsulated in accordance with the present invention is provided above. This list is exemplary only and does not constitute any limitation of the possible combinations of encapsulated reagents and reagents or solutes present in the one or more carrier solutions.

In one embodiment, the microencapsulated or nanoencapsulated reagents could be manufactured by Particle Sciences, Inc. 3894 Courtney Street, Bethlehem, Pa. 18017-8920 US and/or by Microtek Laboratories, Inc. 2400 East River Road, Dayton, Ohio 45439.

In various embodiments of the invention, exemplary methods of producing the microcapsules and nanocapsules used herein and descriptions of the capsular “shells” include, but are not limited to, those disclosed in the following U.S. Patents and Published Patent Applications, all of which are hereby expressly incorporated by reference herein in their entireties. U.S. Patents include, but are not limited to, U.S. Pat. Nos. 7,588,703, 7,462,365, 7,270,851, 7,052,766, 6,989,196, 6,932,984, 6,913,767, 6,881,482, 6,828,025, 6,777,002, 6,767,637, 6,716,450, 6,599,627, 6,555,525, 6,465,425, 6,458,118, 6,265,389, 6,214,300, 6,146,665, 6,113,935, 6,103,271, 6,080,412, 5,925,464, 5,863,862, 5,766,637, 5,650,102, 5,643,605, 5,552,149, 5,540,927, 5,508,041, 5,503,851, 5,503,781, 5,464,932, 5,418,010, 5,407,609, 5,403,578, 5,362,424, 5,277,979, 5,204,184, 5,164,126, 5,164,096, 5,160,529, 5,100,673, 5,091,122, 5,066,436, 5,051,306, 4,942,129, 4,895,725, 4,803,168, 4,766,012, 4,764,317, 4,711,783, 4,675,189, 4,673,595, 4,594,370, 4,521,352, 4,518,547, 4,508,760, 4,389,330, 4,269,729, 4,211,668, 4,193,889, and 4,123,382. U.S. Published Patent Applications include, but are not limited to, 2009/0311329, 2009/0253901, 2009/0214633, 2009/0202652, 2009/0104275, 2009/0098628, 2009/0047314, 2008/0234406, 2008/0138420, 2008/0102132, 2008/0031962, 2007/0077308, 2007/0027085, 2007/0009668, 2006/0237865, 2006/0188464, 2006/0127667, 2006/0093808, 2006/0071357, 2006/0051425, 2004/0228833, 2004/0065969, 2004/0032038, 2003/0138491, 2003/0062641, 2002/0160109, and 2002/0064557.

Examples of reagent (e.g., DNA, RNA, ISH, FISH) reacting with the biological specimen.

As noted above, the encapsulated reagent could be of a different phase or density than that of the solution within which the encapsulated reagent is to be disposed. For example, a non-aqueous solution, such as an oil-based solution, could comprise a soluble, partially soluble, or colloidal suspension, of one or more encapsulated aqueous reagents for performing in situ hybridization of a DNA or RNA probe to a target DNA or RNA present in a specimen on a slide or other substrate. For example, the specimen is present on a microscope slide and the slide is heated to 70°-110° C. The oil solution with its encapsulated reagents present therein is added to the microscope slide. Heating at a temperature of 72° C., for example would cause the disruption of the capsule of the encapsulated reagent, for example, and the aqueous reagents therein would thereby be released into the oil solution. The aqueous reagents quickly separate away from the oil layer and are deposited onto the microscope slide and onto specimen thereon. Wherever the oil solution is present on the microscope slide, there would now be a layer of aqueous reagents that had separated from the oil solution and had migrated to the surface of the microscope slide. Present on the surface of the microscope slide therefore, would be an aqueous reagent layer, with the oil layer of the original solution over the aqueous reagent layer. The aqueous layer could then be agitated or stirred about the slide because the encapsulated reagent preferably had present as one of the reagents therein a detergent for enhancing the dispersion and distribution of the aqueous reagents under the oil layer and upon the slide surface and specimen thereon.

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