New DNA Biosensor Could Unlock Powerful, Low-Cost Clinical Diagnostics

New DNA Biosensor Could Unlock Powerful, Low-Cost Clinical Diagnostics

In a new study, researchers demonstrate the capability of DNA biosensor components for a unique modular DNA biosensor. The researchers plan to integrate their design within a device the size and shape of a smartphone for low-cost clinical diagnostics. 

Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

DNA can signal the presence of or predisposition to a slew of diseases, including cancer. The ability to flag down these clues, known as biomarkers, allows medical professionals to make critical early diagnoses and provide personalized treatments. The typical methods of screening can be laborious, expensive or limited in what they can uncover. A new biosensor chip that boasts an accurate and inexpensive design may increase accessibility to high-quality diagnostics. 

The biosensor, developed by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Brown University and the French government-funded research institute CEA-Leti, identifies biomarkers by measuring how binding occurs between DNA strands and the device. What sets it apart from other similar sensors is its modular design, which lowers costs by making it easier to mass produce and allowing the most expensive components to be reused. 

In a paper just posted online from the latest IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting, the researchers presented results of a study that demonstrates the device’s high sensitivity and precision despite its modularity, which is typically associated with diminished performance.

Like other DNA biosensors, the device takes advantage of the fact that a single DNA strand, when not paired with another within the familiar double helix, is primed for chemical bonding. Part of the device is coated with single strands of DNA. When these “probes” encounter DNA biomarkers that have a corresponding, or complementary, genetic sequence, the two strands bind, sending a signal t ..

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