UC Berkeley researchers create faster form of DNA amplification using LED lighting

A UC Berkeley team is developing a method of making millions of duplicates of a single gene in less than 5 minutes. That would be an improvement over conventional polymerase chain reaction methods, which take hours to copy genes.

So-called photonic PCR accomplished this feat using an LED light that's shot at a thin film of gold, reports the student-run newspaper The Daily Californian. The electrons become active upon the generation of heat, but lose energy when the heating stops.

In this way, the team's breakthrough mimics the fundamental heating and cooling process of conventional PCR. The technique enables researchers to amplify genes in situations where DNA is found in minute amounts, such as from a little bit of blood found at a crime scene.

Members of Berkeley's Bioinspired Photonics-Optofluidics-Electronics Technology and Science group envision using photonic PCR to conduct point of care analysis.

Postdoc Jun Ho Son touted the method's use of standard technologies and lower power consumption in The Daily Californian article. He's now making a plastic chip that will contain gold-coated wells, which the LED will shine on to heat and cool the sample within, enabling PCR application. Another chip in development would filter a sample of blood by transferring the components that contain DNA into the wells.

This breakthrough in genetic analyis would improve the polymerase chain reaction methodology if it were fully developed and widely adopted.

- read the article