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Mar 1, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 5)

qPCR Trends, Techniques, and Tools

Faster, More Efficient, and Less Expensive Way to Analyze Gene Expression Is Ultimate Goal

  • Nanopore DNA Sequencing

    Click Image To Enlarge +
    An alpha hemolysin (alphaHL) protein pore spanning a lipid bilayer with electrolyte solution on either side (Electronic BioSciences)

    Another emerging cost-cutting technology is called nanopore DNA sequencing. According to Andrew D. Hibbs, Ph.D., CEO of  Electronic BioSciences, “this is a revolutionary technology in its early stages. The idea is to be able to identify DNA bases directly as they move through a nanopore formed in a solid material or via a protein structure. The approach measures a single DNA molecule; there’s no need to amplify the DNA. You can move from days to hours to get the same information and the equipment is simpler.”

    Current technology employs the use of reagents that are consumed during the sequencing process and must cut the DNA into short strands requiring extensive processing to assemble the sequence. In contrast, the new technology is composed of a nanopore separated by two solution-filled chambers containing the target DNA.

    When a small (~100 mV) voltage is applied, DNA passes through the nanopore producing a signal that can be measured with standard electrophysiological techniques. Thousands of DNA molecules can be measured by a single pore with no inherent limitation on the number of bases in each molecule.

    “Clearly this has the potential to save much time and money and even meet NIH’s goal of the $1,000 genome by 2014,” Dr. Hibbs says. “If successful, it could allow DNA sequencing to become a routine part of patient care. In addition to personalized medicine, it is likely that DNA modifications linked to development of cancers (such as methylation) can be determined via their nanopore electrical signal.”

    According to Dr. Hibbs, to make this emerging technology more commercially viable will require three to five additional years of development. “Although polybases are now able to be distinguished, the technology must progress to seeing them individually along a strand. Companies are pursuing proprietary technologies to do this and to cash in on what will likely be a very lucrative area.”

    The field of qPCR continues to provide alluring opportunities for a faster, more efficient and less expensive means to analyze gene expression.  

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