New Chip Finds Hereditary Diseases in Minutes
In the future, a handheld device can scan for diseased genes much cheaper and faster than today.
The cutting molecule is known to have diseased genes
With a new biochip, researchers can quickly find a diseased gene in a DNA sample. The chip utilizes an interaction between the cutting molecule Cas9 (which finds the gene) and the carbon material graphene (which records the finding).
Researchers at the University of California in the United States have invented a bioelectronic chip that can reveal sick genes in a matter of minutes. The chip combines the special electrical properties of the substance graphene with the so-called CRISPR technology, which scientists use, among other things, to insert genes into organisms.
CRISPR works using the Cas9 rock molecule, which can recognize exactly the sequence in DNA that causes a gene to malfunction. This is done by the researchers providing Cas9 with a piece of so-called guide RNA, which fits the sequence you want to find.
Electrodes register sick genes
The biochip is made up of a layer graph, which is associated with two electrodes, and continuously measures the electrical resistance in the material. On the graphene layer, there is a layer of Cas9 molecules. They are designed to look for a certain sick gene.
The only thing scientists then have to do is spray a DNA sample from a patient on the chip.
The Cas9 molecule then begins scanning the DNA strands of the sample. When the molecule meets and recognizes the sick gene, a weak electrical impulse is triggered that alters the electrical conductivity of graphene. The change is recorded by the electrodes and scientists, therefore, know that the disease gene is present in the DNA sample.
The CRISPR chip can thus achieve a result much faster than with the methods doctors use today.
Usually, it is necessary first to use the so-called PCR technology to copy the DNA to be investigated millions of times before it can be scanned for certain genes. This process requires both time and expensive apparatus.
See how the chip reveals diseases:
The researchers behind the CRISPR chip believe that it can be relatively easily expanded so that it can search for several different sick genes in the same DNA sample.
So far, they have tested the chip on DNA samples from patients with mutations leading to blooddiseasesickle cell anemia and muscle disease DMD.
The chip can in thepresent time make it easier to detect that kind of sick genes early so that patients receive treatment faster than today – perhaps even before symptoms are detected.