HOUSTON, Oct. 26, 2001 A University of Houston scientist has developed a chemical process for building a device that could help doctors predict a patients response to drugs or screen patients for thousands of genetic mutations and diseases, all with one simple lab test. The DNA chip similar to a computer chip but imbedded with DNA molecules instead of electronic circuitry is designed to probe a biological sample for genetic information that indicates whether the person has a genetic predisposition for certain diseases or conditions.
"We have put thousands of strands of DNA onto a chip that can screen for the genes linked to breast cancer, cystic fibrosis or prostate cancer, for example," says Xiaolian Gao, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Houston. "This highly parallel technology allows us to do thousands or tens of thousands of experiments all at once."
Gao says there currently are many other biochip technologies available or in development, and the ultimate applications of biochips are similar genetic screening, disease diagnosis and new drug development, for example. But the various devices differ in the technology used to fabricate the chips. She says the quality, suitability and cost of biochip products need to be significantly improved before most researchers or doctors can afford to use them.
"The advantage to our biochip is that we bring to the field a flexible, high quality and more cost efficient technology for DNA chips," she says. "Our novel platform technology will allow scientists to make custom-designed biochips containing not only DNA, but other types of molecules, such as RNA, peptides or libraries of organic molecules. Other prevalent technologies do not have the same potential and capabilities as ours." Gao and her team plan to make the biochips available for fields such as genomics, proteomics, chemical genetics and
Contact: Amanda Siegfried
University of Houston