New Haven, Conn.Sequencing DNA base pairs the individual molecules that make up DNA is key for medical researchers working toward personalized medicine. Being able to isolate, study and sequence these DNA molecules would allow scientists to tailor diagnostic testing, therapies and treatments based on each patient's individual genetic makeup.
But being able to isolate individual molecules like DNA base pairs, which are just two nanometers across or about 1/50,000th the diameter of a human hair is incredibly expensive and difficult to control. In addition, devising a way to trap DNA molecules in their natural aqueous environment further complicates things. Scientists have spent the past decade struggling to isolate and trap individual DNA molecules in an aqueous solution by trying to thread it through a tiny hole the size of DNA, called a "nanopore," which is exceedingly difficult to make and control.
Now a team led by Yale University researchers has proven that isolating individual charged particles, like DNA molecules, is indeed possible using a method called "Paul trapping," which uses oscillating electric fields to confine the particles to a space only nanometers in size. (The technique is named for Wolfgang Paul, who won the Nobel Prize for the discovery.) Until now, scientists have only been able to use Paul traps for particles in a vacuum, but the Yale team was able to confine a charged test particle in this case, a polystyrene bead to an accuracy of just 10 nanometers in aqueous solutions between quadruple microelectrodes that supplied the electric field.
Their device can be contained on a single chip and is simple and inexpensive to manufacture. "The idea would be that doctors could take a tiny drop of blood from patients and be able to run diagnostic tests on it right there in their office, instead of sending it away to a lab where testing can take days and is expensive," said Weihua Guan, a Yale engineering gr
|Contact: Suzanne Taylor Muzzin|