ANN ARBOR---A multidisciplinary team of engineering and genetic scientists at the University of Michigan has created a miniature "laboratory on a chip" that automatically analyzes DNA samples and reports the results electronically.
The device---a glass-and-silicon chip smaller than a child's pinky finger---is far less expensive than conventional methods of analyzing DNA (which require specialized laboratories, equipment, and personnel) yet just as quick and sensitive.
It is expected that the "lab on a chip" will be the key component in simple, low-cost, portable instruments that replace the current technology and make DNA analysis widely available.
The broad availability of simple DNA testing equipment should produce major benefits in many fields, including medical diagnostics, forensics, and agriculture. Among the potential applications are the diagnosis of infectious diseases in minutes rather than days, rapid identification of crime suspects, and on-the-spot categorization of endangered species in remote locations.
The invention is the product of five years of work by chemical engineering Prof. Mark A. Burns, along with Profs. David Burke (human genetics) and Carlos Mastrangelo (electrical engineering and computer science) and their colleagues. The work was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health totaling nearly $3 million.
Their method of micro-fabricating a fluid and electronic chip capable of complex chemical analysis is detailed in the Oct. 16 issue of the journal Science, in an article by Burns titled "An Integrated Nanoliter DNA Analysis Device."
The chip includes systems for metering, measuring, and mixing microscopic liquid
samples of DNA with reagents, moving the mixtures to an integrated,
temperature-controlled reaction chamber, separating DNA molecules by size
(through gel electrophoresis), and determining the results with an on-board
Contact: Janet Harvey-Clark
University of Michigan