Dmitri V. Vezenov, assistant professor of chemistry at Lehigh University, was recently named recipient of a $905,000, three-year grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).
Part of the National Institutes of Health, the NHGRI recently announced the latest round of $13 million in grants, which were awarded to speed the development of innovative sequencing technologies that reduce the cost of DNA sequencing and expand the use of genomics in medical research and health care.
A team led by Vezenov will apply force spectroscopy a technique used to measure intermolecular interactions and mechanical properties of polymer molecules to DNA that is undergoing arrested polymerization to initially demonstrate one-molecule-at-a-time analysis of changes in molecular mechanics. The ultimate goal of the project is to achieve a resolution of a single base.
Using optical, near-field probes, the methods of force spectroscopy can be advanced into techniques having a massively parallel format, in which millions of single DNA base additions can be followed at the same time. The identification of the bases will be done exclusively on the basis of changes experienced by the DNA molecule as a whole.
Vezenov's team aims to demonstrate a low-cost tabletop setup suitable for use in a general biology or hospital laboratory.
"Scanning force microscopy is a powerful tool with which to visualize the molecular and nano-world, but it cannot be used to 'read' the genetic code," says Vezenov. "In the last decade, advances in force spectroscopy a related technique have led to some interesting discoveries of the rich mechanical properties of single DNA molecules. We now know, for example, about a stretching transition in a DNA duplex that no one could have foreseen."
Vezenov says his group will try to answer a scientific question of the ultimate resolution that one can achieve when measuring forces in biomolecules: Can we
Contact: Linda Harbrecht