A new “nano-printing” technique developed at MIT could revolutionize mass production of DNA microarray and other diagnostic devices:
In the new printing method, called Supramolecular Nano-Stamping (SuNS), single strands of DNA essentially self-assemble upon a surface to duplicate a nano-scale pattern made of their complementary DNA strands. The duplicates are identical to the master and can thus be used as masters themselves. This increases print output exponentially while enabling the reproduction of very complex nano-scale patterns.
One such pattern is found on a DNA microarray, a silicon or glass chip printed with up to 500,000 tiny dots [see picture above – ed.]. Each dot comprises multiple DNA molecules of known sequence, i.e. a piece of an individual’s genetic code. Scientists use DNA microarrays to discover and analyze a person’s DNA or messenger-RNA genetic code. This allows for, say, the early diagnosis of liver cancer, or the prediction of the chances that a couple will produce a child with a genetic disease.
Frequent, widespread use of these devices is hindered by the fact that producing them is a painstaking process that involves at least 400 printing steps and costs approximately $500 per microarray.
MIT’s nano-printing method requires only three steps and could reduce the cost of each microarray to under $50. “This would completely revolutionize diagnostics,” said Stellacci. With the ability to mass produce these devices and thus make DNA analysis routine, “we could know years in advance of cancer, hepatitis, or Alzheimer’s.”
Another benefit would be large-scale diagnostics that could provide useful information about disease. Take diabetes. “We don’t know if it’s genetic. The only way to find out is to test a lot of people,” said Stellacci. “The more we test with microarrays, the more we know about illnesses, and the more we can detect them.”
The press release…