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A novel electronic sensor array for more rapid, accurate and
cost-efficient testing of DNA for disease diagnosis and biological
research has been developed by scientists at Singapore's Institute of
Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN).
In a recent article published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society,
IBN scientists reported that based on laboratory results, their Nanogap
Sensor Array has shown "excellent" sensitivity at detecting trace
amounts of DNA.
"By saving time and lowering expenses, our newly developed Nanogap
Sensor Array offers a scalable and viable alternative for DNA testing,"
said Zhiqiang Gao, Ph.D., Group Leader at IBN, the world's first
bioengineering and nanotechnology research institute.
The biosensor translates the presence of DNA into an electrical
signal for computer analysis. The distinctively designed sensor chip
has the ability to detect DNA more efficiently by "sandwiching" the DNA
strands between the two different surfaces.
"The novel vertical nanostructure design and two different surfaces
of the sensor allow ultrasensitive detection of DNA," added Dr. Gao.
"This sensitivity is best-in-class among electrical DNA biosensors. The
design of the sensor also took into consideration the feasibility of
mass production in a cost-effective way for expanded usage."
Conventionally, human DNA is detected through the use of polymerase
chain reaction (PCR), which while effective, is also expensive,
cumbersome and time-consuming for widespread use. The PCR technique
amplifies a single piece of DNA across several orders of magnitude,
duplicating millions or more copies of a particular DNA sequence, in
order to detect the genetic material more easily.
Although effective, tests involving PCR may not be optimal for
situations such as a pandemic outbreak, where results are needed
quickly because PCR devices tend to be bulky and costly.
The Nanogap Sensor Array has a unique, vertically aligned
nanostructure design and a two-surface configuration based on
electronic transduction. The sensor comes with a pair of micro-sized
metal electrodes separated by a nanogap (5 - 20 nm or about 1/50,000
the width of a human hair).
Another distinctive feature of the biosensor is its ability to
capture DNA strands more effectively. This is possible because the two
surfaces of the sensor are coated with a chemically treated "capture
probe" solution through an electrochemical technique specially
developed by IBN. This allows DNA strands to "stick" more easily to the
sensor, resulting in a faster and more accurate analysis.
"This new biosensor holds significant promise to speed up on-going
efforts in the detection and diagnosis of debilitating diseases such as
cancer, cardiovascular problems and infectious viruses. We aim to make
healthcare accessible to the masses with early disease diagnosis as the
critical driving force behind the research we undertake here at IBN,"
added Jackie Y. Ying, Ph.D., Executive Director of IBN, one of the
research institutes of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and
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