Detection and diagnosis of diseases could be simplified and made more accurate with an instrument being developed by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
The device, which detects genetic mutations by identifying mismatches in DNA strands, is based on miniature micro-machined silicon cantilevers one-tenth the width of a human hair.
The micro-cantilevers are said to detect tiny forces caused by hybridisation — the binding of two single strands of DNA to form double stranded DNA – like that found in people.
The device, which boasts extremely high sensitivity, works by adsorbing DNA molecules from a patient’s sample and binding on a micro-cantilever treated with a known DNA sequence.
If the sample DNA binds to the known DNA sequence, the cantilever bends, indicating the presence of a specific DNA sequence in the patient.
In addition to its use for clinical diagnostics, researchers see this technology having nano-scale applications for implants and timed releases of medications.