Navigation Links
Texas A&M chemical engineer's work could lead to improved DNA analysis

COLLEGE STATION, Sept. 9, 2010 DNA analysis is poised to experience a significant advancement thanks to the work of a Texas A&M University chemical engineer, who has discovered a way to achieve more effective separation of DNA fragments.

Working with a widely used gelatin substance known as a hydrogel, Victor M. Ugaz, associate professor in the university's Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, and graduate student Nan Shi have been able to determine the specific type of conditions that result in the optimum gel pore structure for separation of a wide range of DNA fragment sizes. Their findings appear in the Sept. 3 edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.

"It changes the way you think about the entire process because these findings demonstrate a rational way to connect the pore structure of the gel quantitatively to the mechanism by which the DNA moves through the gel," Ugaz explains. "Researchers can now actually design gels to specifically harness certain effects, and they will need this information we have found to do that."

The enhanced separation technique, Ugaz notes, could benefit a wide array of fields that utilize DNA analysis, including biomedical research, forensics and genetic engineering.

Key to Ugaz's findings is the manner in which DNA fragments move through a hydrogel. Employing a process called "electrophoresis," researchers who study DNA typically embed negatively charged DNA into a porous hydrogel. They then apply an electric field which causes the DNA fragments to move through the pores of the hydrogel. Naturally, smaller DNA chains move faster through the maze of pores than longer strands of DNA.

However, when DNA chains are roughly the same size as the pores through which they are attempting to pass, a process called "entropic trapping" takes place, Ugaz notes. During this process, the naturally coiled DNA fragment, in a sense, has to unthread a bit to pass through a pore, he says. Because the fragment wants to return to its coiled shape, it quickly squeezes through the smaller pore so that it can enter a larger pore where there is enough room for it to return to its natural shape.

Harnessing this entropic trapping effect for separation through a hydrogel marks a significant advancement in DNA studies, Ugaz says.

Although it has long been predicted that entropic trapping effects can potentially benefit a wide variety of applications including separation technologies, actually figuring out how to use this phenomenon previously has been difficult in hydrogels because it has not been clear how this transport mechanism is linked to the gel's porous structure, Ugaz explains.

In other words, hydrogels need to have very specific properties such as pore size distribution, and prior to these findings, there has been no way to know how to choose the right hydrogel that has the right properties, Ugaz notes.

"You want to be able to detect the smallest possible difference in size between DNA fragments," Ugaz explains. "The size of the fragments may be very close, and you may need to detect a difference of one unit in size. To do this, you would want to be able to specifically construct a hydrogel with the necessary pore structure to achieve this."

Ugaz's research provided the "instructions on how to do just that.

"We have a better picture of how to do this than what has existed," Ugaz says. "We know what the gel needs to look like and how it needs to be prepared.

"We're able to understand how to construct a gel that would allow DNA to move via an entropic trapping method that enhances separation performance and in turn leads to more effective analysis. This finding could have enormous implications by helping remove current barriers to separation efficiency"


Contact: Ryan Garcia
Texas A&M University

Related biology news :

1. Earth scientists keep an eye on Texas
2. 7 Texas mammals listed as threatened on Global Mammal Assessment
3. Texas A&M anthropologist discovers long-lost primate in Indonesia
4. Texas invests record $3.5 million in startup cofounded by UTs Mauro Ferrari
5. Texas College Police Unit Deploys BIO-key(R) Mobile Data System
6. UT Southwestern scientist honored among best in Texas research
7. Texas Medical Center researchers win collaborative grants
8. Famous fossil Lucy scanned at the University of Texas at Austin
9. Texas researchers provide emissions data for livestock industry
10. Texas Obesity Research Center at UH assembles researchers to discuss obesity
11. Texas-sized tract of single-celled clones
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/8/2015)... , October 8, 2015 ... the "Company"), a biometric authentication company focused on ... the Wocket® smart wallet announces that revenues for ... approximately $410,000 compared with $113,00 for the three ... 9 months ended September 30, 2015 were approximately ...
(Date:10/5/2015)... , October 5, 2015 ... company update for NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTD ), ... commerce market. --> ) ... Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTD ), a biometric authentication company ... SoundView Technology Group ( ) ...
(Date:9/30/2015)... Sept. 30, 2015  The global glucose monitoring device and ... So says a new report on the industry from Kalorama ... dominate the market, followed by continuous glucose monitoring and sensor ... the market for these products in its latest report, ... , ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/13/2015)... JACKSONVILLE, Florida , October 13, 2015 ... company specializing in the development of innovative peptide and ... & metastatic disease, will be a featured presenting company ... at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in ... --> TapImmune, Inc. (TPIV), a clinical-stage immunotherapy ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... , Oct. 13, 2015  Generex Biotechnology Corporation ( ... into a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) with MediTemp Ltd. ... developed a proprietary cooling technology designed to improve sperm quality ... the United States and three million men in ... and 44 diagnosed as infertile.  For 42% of those men, ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... ... 13, 2015 , ... Clinovo recently appointed Jeff Parr and Ed Donaldson to ... data solutions business. , Jeff Parr has spent the past decade providing quality management ... Thermo Fisher, and Ab Sciex to name a few. He is based in ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... ... October 13, 2015 , ... Proove ... to announce their partnership with the Keck Medicine of the University of ... , The T.R.O.J.A.N. Study (Therapeutic Evaluation to Research Clinical Objectives Linking Genotypic and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: