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

at a particular wavelength. But, while fluorescence is very powerful, its major limitation is that each molecule usually produces only a few thousand photons per second. "This means you can't see anything that happens faster than a few milliseconds, because any image you could take would be too dim," explains Shepard, who is Rosenstein's advisor. "On the other hand, if you can use techniques that measure electrons or ions, you can get billions of signals per second. The problem is that for electronic measurements there is no equivalent to a fluorescent wavelength filter, so even though the signal comes through, it is often buried in background noise."

Shepard's group has been interested in single-molecule measurements for several years looking at a variety of novel transduction platforms. They began working with nanopore sensors after Marija Drndic, a professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania, gave a seminar at Columbia Engineering in 2009. "We saw that nearly everybody else measures nanopores using classical electrophysiology amplifiers, which are mostly optimized for slower measurements," notes Shepard. "So we designed our own integrated circuit instead."

Rosenstein designed the new electronics and did much of the lab work. Drndic's group at the University of Pennsylvania fabricated the nanopores that the team then measured in their new system.

"While most groups are trying to slow down DNA, our approach is to build faster electronics," says Drndic. "We combined the most sensitive electronics with the most sensitive solid-state nanopores."

"It's very exciting to be able to make purely electronic measurements of single molecules," says Rosenstein. "The setup for nanopore measurements is very simple and portable. It doesn't require a complicated microscope or high powered instruments; it just requires attention to detail. You can easily imagine nanopore technology having a major impact on DNA sequencing and other med
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Contact: Holly Evarts
holly@engineering.columbia.edu
347-453-7408
Columbia University
Source:Eurekalert  

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