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Taiwanese Scientists Develop Ultra-Fast DNA Sequencing Technique

Professor G. Steven Huang from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor Yu-Shiun Chen from the Department of Biological Science and Technology of National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) in Taiwan have successfully developed a more rapid, precise, and economic technique of singe-molecule DNA sequencing. By combining a protein transistor with biological technologies, they can accelerate the process of DNA sequencing in order to provide a better tool for personalized medicine and genetic research. The research was published online on May 5, 2013 in Nature Nanotechnology. DNA sequencing is a key to unveiling the mystery of life. A gene is formed by a sequence of bases (G, A, T, C) and locates in the double helix of DNA. It is the basic unit that determines the genetic characteristics of a creature. A human genome consists of approximately 3 billion DNA base pairs. Even with current technology, the process of DNA sequencing still takes a significant amount of time. The innovative technique developed by the team from NCTU stands out becuse it can significantly reduce the time of the sequencing process and meanwhile also lower the error rate. With this technique, single DNA molecules can be sequenced by monitoring the electrical conductance of a phi29 DNA polymerase as it incorporates unlabelled nucleotides into a template strand of DNA. The conductance of the polymerase is measured by attaching it to a protein transistor. According to Professor Chen, with this technology, they can overcome the obstacles from which other techniques suffer. This will be the very first time that people can see the entire process of polymerase synthesis without the use of fluorescence and other external aids. Last year, the team stood out from the intense competition of molecule electron component research and became a pioneer in this field thanks to their ground-breaking bio-nanotechnology. They developed a first-ever single-molecule protein transistor with practical use, turning a semiconductor component into a sensitive biological monitor. The team continues its research and developed the single-molecule sequencing technique this year, marking a breakthrough in the combination of semiconductor industry and nanotechnology. The team is looking forward to future developments. According to Professor Huang, they will combine industrial knowledge with their research to enhance the productivity and economic value of their technology. This technology not only benefits the growth of biology and electronic-related industries, its applications such as the comparison of genes between individuals can also provide a good tool for medical practitioners for disease diagnosis. [Press release] [Nature Nanotechnology abstract]