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'Diving board' sensors key to DNA detection
Date:7/27/2012

PHILADELPHIA - A tiny vibrating cantilever sensor could soon help doctors and field clinicians quickly detect harmful toxins, bacteria and even indicators of certain types of cancer from small samples of blood or urine. Researchers from Drexel University are in the process of refining a sensor technology that they developed to measure samples at the cellular level into an accurate method for quickly detecting traces of DNA in liquid samples.

According to lead researcher Dr. Raj Mutharasan, a professor in Drexel's College of Engineering, the group's unique application of lead zirconate titanate (PZT) to current piezoelectric-excited cantilever sensor technology has created a way to conduct more sensitive and timely tests for DNA. This DNA test will allow for quick identification of harmful cells and bacteria.

"I equate this new technology to authorities trying to catch a criminal using latent fingerprints rather than a mug shot," Mutharasan said. "It is more precise, selective and sensitive. With the PZT sensor we can potentially detect DNA derived from a much smaller number of pathogens and in a much shorter period of time than current methods."

Cantilever Sensor Uses Electric Current for More Sensitive Measurements

Cantilever sensor technology, which has been around for a little over a decade, detects its minute targets using a method that is relatable to a springboard bouncing with the movements of a diver. The "board" or cantilever in this application vibrates at a higher frequency when the diver jumps off and his or her mass is removed. Conversely, the vibration frequency of a cantilever would decrease when weight is added to it. Measuring the difference in frequency of mass-free versus mass-loaded vibrations allow researchers to detect cells or, in this case, DNA, in samples.

Mutharasan and his group combined the PZT material to the cantilever in an innovative design, which allows researchers to ini
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Contact: Britt Faulstick
bef29@drexel.edu
215-895-2617
Drexel University
Source:Eurekalert

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