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Columbia Engineering and Penn researchers increase speed of single-molecule measurements
Date:3/18/2012

New York, NYMarch 18, 2012As nanotechnology becomes ever more ubiquitous, researchers are using it to make medical diagnostics smaller, faster, and cheaper, in order to better diagnose diseases, learn more about inherited traits, and more. But as sensors get smaller, measuring them becomes more difficultthere is always a tradeoff between how long any measurement takes to make and how precise it is. And when a signal is very weak, the tradeoff is especially big.

A team of researchers at Columbia Engineering, led by Electrical Engineering Professor Ken Shepard, together with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania, has figured out a way to measure nanoporestiny holes in a thin membrane that can detect single biological molecules such as DNA and proteinswith less error than can be achieved with commercial instruments. They have miniaturized the measurement by designing a custom integrated circuit using commercial semiconductor technology, building the nanopore measurement around the new amplifier chip. Their research will be published in the Advance Online Publication on Nature Methods's website on 18 March at 1400 (2pm) US Eastern time/ 1800 London time.

Nanopores are exciting scientists because they may lead to extremely low-cost and fast DNA sequencing. But the signals from nanopores are very weak, so it is critically important to measure them as cleanly as possible.

"We put a tiny amplifier chip directly into the liquid chamber next to the nanopore, and the signals are so clean that we can see single molecules passing through the pore in only one microsecond," says Jacob Rosenstein, a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering at Columbia Engineering and lead author of the paper. "Previously, scientists could only see molecules that stay in the pore for more than 10 microseconds."

Many single-molecule measurements are currently made using optical techniques, which use fluorescent molecules that emit photons
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Contact: Holly Evarts
holly@engineering.columbia.edu
347-453-7408
Columbia University
Source:Eurekalert  

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