Biodesign research may yield low-cost DNA sequencing, sensor applications

March 22, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Richard Harth, The Biodesign Institute] – A ghostly property of matter, called quantum tunneling, may aid the quest for accurate, low-cost genomic sequencing, according to a new paper in Nature Nanotechnology Letters by Stuart Lindsay and his collaborators at the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University. Tunneling implies that a particle, say an electron, can cross a barrier, when, according to classical physics, it does not have enough energy to do so.

Unraveling the DNA sequences of the human genome a decade ago was a remarkable achievement. Today, the task of sequencing some 3 billion chemical base pairs of the genomeenough information to fill a 20-volume encyclopediaremains a daunting challenge, thus far accomplished largely through brute force means. Such methods are typically slow and extravagantly expensive, (though costs have dropped considerably from the initial sequencing of the human genome, which took 11 years at a cost of $1 billion.)

Bringing the power of DNA sequencing to every individual will require new, affordable technologies to help mine the wealth of information DNA can provide concerning morphology, hereditary traits and predisposition to disease.

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