This development could contribute to many areas of health care and law enforcement, including diagnosing and treating disease, developing and testing new vaccines and forensic identification.
Donald K. Roper, associate professor of chemical engineering, explained that the ultimate goal of his research is to develop a credit-card-sized device to be used in a doctor’s office or at a crime scene to quickly analyze samples of DNA. “That’s the power of being able to do this on a really tiny scale,” he said.
To analyze DNA, scientists must often make a tiny sample large enough to work with. To do this, they use a process called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. Roper, who holds the Charles W. Oxford Endowed Professorship in Emerging Technologies, has invented a way to perform this reaction thousands of times faster than traditional methods.
Roper’s process, which he developed while working at the University of Utah, uses gold nanoparticles to increase the efficiency of the chain reaction. During the reaction, strands of DNA are heated and cooled in cycles. When the samples are heated, the two strands of a DNA double helix come apart, and when the temperature is lowered, an enzyme called polymerase zips each strand to other, complementary strands, forming two new DNA helixes.
These copies are then heated and cooled again, doubling each time until the desired amount of DNA has been produced.
Roper’s method reduces the time involved in these cycles from minutes to milliseconds, which means that a DNA sample could be analyzed within minutes rather than hours. By associating the DNA and enzyme with a gold nanoparticle and then exciting the nanoparticle with a light source or laser beam, Roper can target temperature changes to the area immediately around the DNA. This allows researchers to raise or lower the temperature more quickly. In addition, the process can be used to analyze the DNA during the reaction.
“We can use the laser light and the gold nanoparticles to do both the amplification and the analysis simultaneously,” explained Roper. “The electromagnetic field around the nanoparticle is strong enough that it can sense whether or not the strand that we’re interested in is there. The laser induces the field and then a detector assays the difference in the field.”
Roper’s research has implications for many scientific fields. “Genomics underscores everything of interest to biology: gene sequencing, disease diagnostics, pharmaceutical development and genetic analysis,” he explained. “DNA is the basis of inheritance for the cell, and the degree of transcription of the DNA determines how a cell will function. This is a tool that examines these processes.”CONTACTS:
Camilla Medders | Newswise Science News
In focus: Peptides, the “little brothers and sisters” of proteins
12.11.2018 | Technische Universität Berlin
How to produce fluorescent nanoparticles for medical applications in a nuclear reactor
09.11.2018 | Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IOCB Prague)
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
Scientists developed specially coated nanometer-sized vehicles that can be actively moved through dense tissue like the vitreous of the eye. So far, the transport of nano-vehicles has only been demonstrated in model systems or biological fluids, but not in real tissue. The work was published in the journal Science Advances and constitutes one step further towards nanorobots becoming minimally-invasive tools for precisely delivering medicine to where it is needed.
Researchers of the “Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems” Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, together with an international...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
12.11.2018 | Life Sciences
12.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
12.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy