The technological advancement of DNA sequencing has been progressing so rapidly that the extraction steps that were always just a small part of a much longer process, are now hindering the speed with which research can be done. DNA is typically extracted from a biological sample using special filters or centrifuges, processes that take up to a half hour to perform. A new device from University of Washington uses a novel new technique to pull up the DNA molecules from a liquid using a bit of electricity and creative design.
Special electrodes are immersed into a sample and create an electric field which lures particles toward the probes. While larger particles fall off the probe, ones that are DNA-sized grip on and can be easily transfered to a sequencer.
The hand-held device can clean four separate human fluid samples at once, but the technology can be scaled up to prepare 96 samples at a time, which is standard for large-scale handling.
The tiny probes, called microtips and nanotips, were designed and built at the UW in a micro-fabrication facility where a technician can make up to 1 million tips in a year, which is key in proving that large-scale production is feasible, [Jae-Hyun Chung, a UW associate professor of mechanical engineering] said.
Engineers in Chung’s lab also have designed a pencil-sized device using the same probe technology that could be sent home with patients or distributed to those serving in the military overseas. Patients could swab their cheeks, collect a saliva sample, then process their DNA on the spot to send back to hospitals and labs for analysis.
This could be useful as efforts ramp up toward sequencing each person’s genome for disease prevention and treatment, Chung said.
Here’s a video showing the new device:
University of Washington press release: New device can extract human DNA with full genetic data in minute…