Investigators at Purdue University devised a novel method to sort through specific sequences of DNA by allowing large chunks of these molecules to translocate through specially designed “nanopore channels.” Such a tool might one day be used for a wide range of genomic applications.
The tiny channels, which are 10 to 20 nanometers in diameter and a few hundred nanometers long, were created in silicon and then a single strand of DNA was attached inside each channel.
Each channel was fabricated in a thin silicon membrane and bathed in the fluids containing DNA. Because DNA is negatively charged, applying a voltage across the membrane causes the genetic material in the bath to flow through the channel. The DNA is said to “translocate” through the nanopore.
The researchers discovered that single strands of perfectly complementary DNA – strands matching those attached to the inside of each channel – flowed faster and were transported in higher numbers across the pores compared to strands that did not match, Bashir said.
We can detect the translocation of specific types of DNA strands by measuring the electrical current across the channel,” he said. “Essentially, we can measure specific signature pulses that happen as a result of the specific DNA movement.”
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