By Cameron Chai
The time consuming process of performing DNA analysis has been reduced to a
matter of minutes, thanks to the research headed by Donald K Roper, an associate
professor of chemical engineering at the University of Arkansas.
The patented process reduces the duration of the analysis process and his
achievement will greatly aid law enforcement and healthcare in forensic
identification, testing and development of new vaccines as well as in diagnosis
and treatment of diseases.
Donald K Roper, who has been presented with the Charles W Oxford Endowed
Professorship in Emerging Technologies, stated that the research aims at the
development of a small device of the size of a credit card that can be used
conveniently at the crime scene or a doctor’s office to analyze DNA samples and
get instantaneous results.
In the traditional DNA analysis process, scientists use the polymerase chain
reaction to make a tiny DNA sample large enough. Donald K Roper has devised a
process, by which the reaction is 1000 X faster. The process uses gold
nanoparticles, which increases the chain reaction’s efficiency. During the
process, termed Roper’s process, DNA strands are subjected to cyclic heating and
cooling. When heat is applied, the two strands of its double helix are
separated. When the temperature is cooled down, complimentary strands are zipped
together using the polymerase enzyme. Thus, with each cycle, two DNA helixes are
formed. When subjected to repeated heating and cooling, the copies of DNA
helixes keep doubling until it produces a sufficient amount of the DNA.
Since Roper’s method reduces the cycle time to milliseconds, the analysis
process is also reduced to minutes. A laser beam directed around the DNA can
allow researchers to increase or decrease the temperature quickly. Roper also
added that gold nanoparticles and laser light can be used to simultaneously
amplify the DNA sample and analyze it.The electromagnetic field of the
nanoparticle senses the required DNA strand and the detector assays the
difference in the induced field.