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Highlights in Chemical Science

News from across RSC Publishing.

Batch synthesis of DNA

19 January 2007

Scientists in California have constructed a microfluidic device that can synthesise DNA with excellent efficiency.

Miniaturisation and automation are often used in synthetic chemistry to reduce reagent consumption, cost and manpower. Stephen Quake at Stanford University, California, US, and colleagues have now applied these techniques to DNA synthesis. 

The researchers made a microfluidic DNA synthesizer from a perfluoropolyether elastomer. The device can make 60 picomoles of DNA while consuming less than 500 nanolitres of reagent solution. This is a 60 fold reduction in reagent consumption over conventional automated methods. 'This approach demonstrates the usefulness of integrated micromechanical valves for complicated multi-step organic synthesis reactions,' said Quake. It will also enable automated chemical experiments with a wide variety of solvents and a huge reduction in wastes, he said.


Microfluidic device

The microfluidic device: less wasteful than conventional methods


According to Quake, their device could have a significant impact on how genes are synthesised in the future. It may be possible to elute the product DNA in nanolitre volumes, creating concentrations similar to those used in the lab. This would be useful in screening RNA sequences, creating DNA nanostructures, and for DNA computing. 'It has been challenging to find materials to make devices from that are solvent resistant,' said Quake. This work is a big step forward but many more materials challenges remain, he said. 

Jenna Wilson


Solvent resistant microfluidic DNA synthesizer

Y Huang, P Castrataro, C-C Lee and S R Quake, Lab Chip, 2007