The University of Pittsburgh is reporting that a group of its investigators together with California-based Nanomix, Inc., have developed a faster method for detecting disease-causing mutations. Using carbon nanotubes that are combined with silicon microstructures, the electrical impedance-based system is reported to be able to detect single base mutations in DNA.
Here is how the company describes its Sensation™ nanotechnology:
Carbon nanotubes are combined with silicon microstructures using proprietary materials and methods. Electrical impedance can be measured by applying a voltage, thus providing a characteristic signal. The nanotube network is coated with a functional layer that interacts with the chemical or biological analyte of interest. Interactions between the functional layer and the analyte result in a measurable change in the electronic characteristics of the detection device. The one nanometer diameter of the nanotubes allows for ultra-sensitive detection as very slight changes in electronic characteristics can be measured. Sensation™ detection technology can be applied to a broad range of chemical and bio molecules because a wide variety of functional layers can be employed.
University of Pittsburgh on how the technology was used for DNA analysis:
University of Pittsburgh researcher Alexander Star and colleagues at a California-based company, Nanomix, Inc., have developed devices made of carbon nanotubes that can find mutations in genes causing hereditary diseases, they report in the Jan. 16 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. This method is less expensive and takes less time than conventional techniques…
“We have found that electrical measurement of carbon nanotube devices produce sensor results that are comparable to state-of-the-art optical techniques,” Star said.
He added, “The applications of our method for detection of other, more serious genetic diseases can be seen.”
Label-free electronic detection of DNA has several advantages over state-of-the-art optical techniques, including cost, time, and simplicity.
“Our technology can bring to market hand-held, field-ready devices for genetic screening, as opposed to laboratory methods using labor-intense labeling and sophisticated optical equipment,” Star said.