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UBC 'megapixel' DNA replication technology promises faster, more precise diagnostics
Date:7/3/2011

UBC researchers have developed a DNA measurement platform that sets dramatic new performance standards in the sensitivity and accuracy of sample screening.

The advance could improve a range of genetic diagnostics and screenings where precise measurement is crucial--including the early detection of cancer, prenatal diagnostics, the detection of pathogens in food products, and the analysis of single cell gene expression.

The new digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR) device uses liquid surface tension, rather than systems of microscopic valves, to partition DNA samples into arrays of 1,000,000 chambers or more. The device enables the direct counting of single molecules isolated in individual chambers.

The density of reaction chambers achieved by the platform exceeds more traditional valve-based digital PCR techniques by a factor of 100, translating directly into improved performance.

"This solves some major technical issues that have limited the scale and accuracy of traditional digital PCR techniques," says Assistant Professor Carl Hansen with the UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy and Centre for High‐Throughput Biology. "It creates defect-free arrays of millions of uniform volume sub-reactions, and controls dehydration of these reactions during thermocycling."

PCR is an indispensable molecular biology technique used by researchers to amplify--or copy--a single piece of DNA millions or billions of times. The technique relies on repeated cycles of heating and cooling of the reaction to replicate segments of DNA using a protein called DNA polymerase, the same enzyme that copies DNA in living cells. PCR is used in medical and biology labs to clone DNA, analyze genes, detect hereditary disease, and in forensics.

The description of the 'megapixel' platform was published today in Nature Methods.

Digital PCR refers to a new generation of DNA replication techniques that offer increased
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Contact: Carl Hansen
chansen@phas.ubc.ca
604-827-3229
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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