DNA stretching device to help detect bio-terror attacks
08 August 2006
A device which stretches DNA is being used to develop a detector for bio-warfare agents.
The research is reported in the latest edition of the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Lab on a Chip.
DNA, which is naturally coiled in a double-helix form, is much more easily analysed when stretched out, according to Jonathan Larson and a team at US Genomics, USA.
The DNA is stretched by forcing it to flow through a microscopic funnel, and a microchip is then used to complete the analysis.
The technique could help quickly detect, for example, an anthrax, ricin or smallpox attack on a city and help authorities respond in a shorter time.
Dr Larson said: "The ultra high output of our approach is inspiring new applications for DNA mapping.
"Our company has been awarded $23 million by the US Department of Homeland Security's Advanced Research Projects Agency - this funding is to develop a detection system for bio-warfare agents based on the DNA stretching approach.
"Within 15 minutes, the system will analyse approximately one million DNA fragments collected from biomaterial in the air."
Dr Larson added his team has already improved the stretching efficiency, by increasing throughput and making changes to sample preparation.
He said: "Collectively, these improvements are a big step forward towards fielding robust, sensitive, and high throughput systems for DNA detection."
with thanks to Katherine Davies for the original article.
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