Novel technique leads to faster, cheaper genome analyses

Speedier, low-cost genomic sequencing and profiling may help clinicians diagnose patients' susceptibility to disease and tolerance of selected drugs more quickly. But engineers need to find a way to increase the sensitivity of sensors used to detect the DNA molecules that define the human genome--something that could be achieved by reducing the number of target DNA molecule copies needed to obtain an accurate read.

Researchers from Boston University, New York University and Bar-Ilan University have developed a method that advances the prospects for analyzing DNA samples without amplification. In a study published in the Dec. 20 online edition of Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers demonstrate a method to tune solid-state nanopores to require fewer DNA molecules, according to a story from BU.

To significantly increase the rate at which nanopores capture incoming DNA molecules, BU Associate Professor Amit Meller and his colleagues used salt gradients to alter the electric field in the pore's vicinity. This achieved a funneling effect that directed charged DNA molecules toward the mouth of the pore and boosted the molecules' arrival and threading rates. By upping the capture rate and decreasing the volume of the sample receiving chamber, the researchers reduced the number of DNA molecule copies required for nanopore-based detection from about 1 billion sample molecules to 100,000.

"This study shows that using our method, we can detect a much smaller amount of DNA than previously published,"  says. "When people will start to implement genome sequencing or profiling using nanopores, they could use our nanopore capture approach to greatly reduce the number of copies used in those measurements."

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- read the story from Boston University