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Bioelectronic ‘signatures?hold key to DNA mutations

A new method to identify DNA mutations may shepherd in an era of small, portable, electronic devices for the rapid screening and identification of genes that harbor disease.

Joseph Wang, director of the Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors at the Biodesign Institute at ASU, led a team effort that successfully merged work in the fields of biosensors, electronics, and nanotechnology to fashion nanocrystals that can act as “DNA biosensors?by electronically recognizing subtle mutations in the DNA. This creates enormous potential for applications such as the diagnosis and treatment of genetic diseases, detection of infectious agents and reliable forensic analysis.

Wang, who recently was recruited to the Biodesign Institute and serves a joint appointment as professor in the chemical and materials department at the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and the Department of Chemistry, is a renowned expert in nanomaterial-based biosensors that operate at the scale of a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair. He wrote 660 papers and has 12 patents to his credit, including involvement in the development of the first noninvasive biosensor for diabetes, the FDA approved Gluco Watch, which monitors glucose levels through human sweat.

“The ultimate goal is to make something similar to a hand-held glucose monitor for future genetic testing,?Wang says. “The electronic detection of DNA is a thing of beauty. You can make it small, low-power, inexpensive and robust.?/p>

Among the keys to unearthing the mysteries behind individual genetic variation and diseases like cancer are fine differences ?single nucleotide polymorphisms, or “SNPs??buried within the 3 billion chemical bases of DNA comprising the human genome. Not every SNP found will necessarily cause a mutation or determine our eye or hair color ?but, on average, SNPs occur about once in every 1,000 DNA bases, adding up to 3 million potential individual differences across the human geno
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Source:Arizona State University


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