Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Texas A&M chemical engineer's work could lead to improved DNA analysis

DNA analysis is poised to experience a significant advancement thanks to the work of a Texas A&M University chemical engineer, who has discovered a way to achieve more effective separation of DNA fragments.

Working with a widely used gelatin substance known as a hydrogel, Victor M. Ugaz, associate professor in the university's Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, and graduate student Nan Shi have been able to determine the specific type of conditions that result in the optimum gel pore structure for separation of a wide range of DNA fragment sizes. Their findings appear in the Sept. 3 edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.

"It changes the way you think about the entire process because these findings demonstrate a rational way to connect the pore structure of the gel quantitatively to the mechanism by which the DNA moves through the gel," Ugaz explains. "Researchers can now actually design gels to specifically harness certain effects, and they will need this information we have found to do that."

The enhanced separation technique, Ugaz notes, could benefit a wide array of fields that utilize DNA analysis, including biomedical research, forensics and genetic engineering.

Key to Ugaz's findings is the manner in which DNA fragments move through a hydrogel. Employing a process called "electrophoresis," researchers who study DNA typically embed negatively charged DNA into a porous hydrogel. They then apply an electric field which causes the DNA fragments to move through the pores of the hydrogel. Naturally, smaller DNA chains move faster through the maze of pores than longer strands of DNA.

However, when DNA chains are roughly the same size as the pores through which they are attempting to pass, a process called "entropic trapping" takes place, Ugaz notes. During this process, the naturally coiled DNA fragment, in a sense, has to unthread a bit to pass through a pore, he says. Because the fragment wants to return to its coiled shape, it quickly squeezes through the smaller pore so that it can enter a larger pore where there is enough room for it to return to its natural shape.

Harnessing this entropic trapping effect for separation through a hydrogel marks a significant advancement in DNA studies, Ugaz says.

Although it has long been predicted that entropic trapping effects can potentially benefit a wide variety of applications including separation technologies, actually figuring out how to use this phenomenon previously has been difficult in hydrogels because it has not been clear how this transport mechanism is linked to the gel's porous structure, Ugaz explains.

In other words, hydrogels need to have very specific properties such as pore size distribution, and prior to these findings, there has been no way to know how to choose the right hydrogel that has the right properties, Ugaz notes.

"You want to be able to detect the smallest possible difference in size between DNA fragments," Ugaz explains. "The size of the fragments may be very close, and you may need to detect a difference of one unit in size. To do this, you would want to be able to specifically construct a hydrogel with the necessary pore structure to achieve this."

Ugaz's research provided the "instructions on how to do just that.

"We have a better picture of how to do this than what has existed," Ugaz says. "We know what the gel needs to look like and how it needs to be prepared.

"We're able to understand how to construct a gel that would allow DNA to move via an entropic trapping method that enhances separation performance and in turn leads to more effective analysis. This finding could have enormous implications by helping remove current barriers to separation efficiency"

Contact: Victor Ugaz at (979) 458-1002 or via email: or Ryan A. Garcia at (979) 845-9237 or via email:

Ryan Garcia | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: A&M DNA DNA fragment DNA fragments Hydrogel Texas Ugaz separation technologies

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Strong, steady forces at work during cell division
20.10.2016 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Disturbance wanted
20.10.2016 | Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>