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DNA prefers to dive head first into nanopores
Date:1/8/2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] If you want to understand a novel, it helps to start from the beginning rather than trying to pick up the plot from somewhere in the middle. The same goes for analyzing a strand of DNA. The best way to make sense of it is to look at it head to tail.

Luckily, according to a new study by physicists at Brown University, DNA molecules have a convenient tendency to cooperate.

The research, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, looks at the dynamics of how DNA molecules are captured by solid-state nanopores, tiny holes that soon may help sequence DNA at lightning speed. The study found that when a DNA strand is captured and pulled through a nanopore, it's much more likely to start the journey at one of its ends, rather than being grabbed somewhere in the middle and pulled through in a folded configuration.

"We think this is an important advance for understanding how DNA molecules interact with these nanopores," said Derek Stein, assistant professor of physics at Brown, who performed the research with graduate students Mirna Mihovilivic and Nick Haggerty. "If you want to do sequencing or some other analysis, you want the molecule going through the pore head to tail."

Research into DNA sequencing with nanopores started a little over 15 years ago. The concept is fairly simple. A little hole, a few billionths of a meter across, is poked in a barrier separating two pools of salt water. An electric current is applied across the hole, which occasionally attracts a DNA molecule floating in the water. When that happens, the molecule is whipped through the pore in a fraction of a second. Scientists can then use sensors on the pore or other means to identify nucleotide bases, the building blocks of the genetic code.

The technology is advancing quickly, and the first nanopore sequencing devices are expected to be on the market very soon. But there are still basic questions abo
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Contact: Kevin Stacey
kevin_stacey@brown.edu
401-863-3766
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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