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

tiate the "springboard" effect by applying an electric current. This is an upgrade over the classical cantilever method which requires an external stimulus a flick of the diving board to set the system into motion.

Because PZT sensors are completely controllable, Mutharasan's group has discovered high-order vibration modes in certain designs that are sensitive to very small mass changes, on the order of one-billionth of a microgram, in liquid samples.

"Such high sensitivity enables us to measure biological molecules at a million-fold more sensitive than what is currently feasible," Mutharasan said

A Second Advantage: Rapid Room-Temperature Replication of DNA

The PZT cantilever device is dually useful because it speeds up the process of replicating DNA in a sample. Replication is a necessary step in the testing process in order to improve the quality of the sample and positively identify the bacteria or cell of its origin, much like growing bacterial culture. Muthrasan's research group will conduct simultaneous amplification and detection of DNA that is expected to be carried out at room temperature and in a short time frame.

Typical replication can be time-consuming because the sample needs to be heated in order to begin the process. The advantage of the cantilever sensor is that double-stranded DNA can be unwound by vibrating the sensor at the proper frequency. This procedure essential step for replication can cut a typical detection process, which could take several hours, down to less than an hour.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded the team a grant to continue research into simultaneous DNA replication and detection using these piezoelectric vibrations. The key discovery that Mutharasan's team is building upon is its observation that DNA can be "melted" a term describing the process of unwinding a DNA strand for replication by application of mechanical energy to sensor surface via PZ
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Contact: Britt Faulstick
bef29@drexel.edu
215-895-2617
Drexel University
Source:Eurekalert

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