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Nanotechnology Creates a Genetics Lab on a Microchip

A microchip equipped with 20 gel posts can perform 20 genetic tests using just one drop of blood. It may be the advance the new era of personalized medicine has been waiting for. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, have created nano-sized technology that can perform 20 DNA tests with a single drop of blood. Called the Domino, the new machine “employs polymerase chain reaction technology used to amplify and detect targeted sequences of DNA, but in a miniaturized form that fits on a plastic chip the size of two postage stamps.” Each chip contains 20 gel posts—each the size of a pinhead—capable of identifying sequences of DNA with a single drop of blood. “That’s the real value proposition—being able to do multiple tests at the same time,” said U of A researcher Jason Acker. 

What’s the Big Idea?

By driving down prices, the new technology is expected to make individual DNA tests available to patient clinics for the first time, rather than being limited to research institutions. The portable box that analyzes the test results will cost about $5,000; each individual chip will cost a just a couple dollars to produce. Physicians expect widely-available DNA tests to usher in a new era of personalized medicine, where individual patients can be screened for predispositions to certain diseases and to determine which, if any, medications a patient will be resistant to. 

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