Writing nanopatterns with DNA inks

EVANSTON, Ill. Using an atomic force microscope tip as a pen and different single-stranded DNA as inks, scientists at Northwestern University have demonstrated a technique that could lead to the ultimate high-density gene chip because it takes gene chips to the limit of miniaturization down to the scale of the DNA molecules themselves.

This development, which uses the same tool to write patterns and read the results on the nanometer scale, could have an enormous impact on genomics and proteomics research.

Results of the DNA patterning on both gold and silicon oxide, which is important for electronic and optical materials applications, will be published in the June 7 issue of the journal Science.

"With this new tool, we can take a normal chip thats made and sold today for studying a problem in genomics and miniaturize it to 1/100,000th of its size," said Chad A. Mirkin, director of Northwesterns Institute for Nanotechnology, who led the research team. "In a normal chip with 100,000 different spots of DNA, each spot is 20 to 40 micrometers in diameter. Using state-of-the-art dip-pen nanolithography we can prepare 100,000 DNA spots in the area occupied by a single spot in a conventional gene chip."

This technology, which can produce spots of DNA down to 50 nanometers in diameter, may make it possible to one day have a gene chip with an array of 100,000 different diagnostic tests in an area the size of the tip of a needle. In the future, it may take only a few seconds to make a gene chip, said Mirkin. And by putting in more information per unit area, smaller sample sizes would be required, reducing cost and time.

"Our direct-write patterning of multiple DNA strands also opens up new possibilities for building and studying nanoscale architectures," said Mirkin, also George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry. "By taking advantage of DNA as a type of biochemical Velcro, we should be able to build a circuit, a catalyst, a sensor or

Contact: Megan Fellman
Northwestern University

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