New Patent Dramatically Improves DNA Analysis

Jul 18, 2007

A basic scientist in the Department of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College and the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson has shared a patent on what may someday be a ubiquitous tool in DNA analysis. The discovery could have a range of applications, from forensics to cloning to bioterrorism.

Jonathan Brody, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery and colleague Scott Kern, M.D., at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, have developed a technique that makes a DNA separation technique called electrophoresis five times faster and less expensive than now is possible. “It could save millions of dollars a year, just by speeding up processes,” says Dr. Brody.

Most molecular biology-based techniques involve electrophoresis, the main way scientists analyze DNA. But the ingredients involved in the process have been unchanged for 30 years. “It turns out that all of the buffers people have been using for 30 years have been the wrong choice,” he says, because the standard method is more expensive and takes longer. “This solution that we found is literally a better, faster way of doing it.”

According to Dr. Brody, the patent hinges on the pair’s finding, through trial and error, that the compound lithium boric acid in DNA electrophoresis is the optimal solution for this process.

In electrophoresis, solutions conduct electric current necessary to separate negatively charged DNA molecules. DNA is put through jellylike “gels,” and smaller DNA molecules move more quickly than larger ones as the current passes through. The researchers found, after much experimentation, that lithium boric acid would be a better buffer solution for the process than current 30-year-old methods.

“A process that normally takes around one and a half, two hours to do can be done in 10 minutes – in some instances it can be 10-fold faster,” he explains.

“A lot of our science is abstract and incremental,” he notes. “How often do you get a chance to impact nearly every field in science at once"”

According to Dr. Brody, the finding is “not just a useful discovery for cancer research, but also for the neurosciences, developmental biology – increasingly, many fields involve DNA analysis.” The process has already been gaining acceptance and use internationally.

“It’s becoming more widespread, but like anything in science, it will take time to become a fixture,” he says. “Scientists are like most people: we don’t necessarily like to change.”

Source: Thomas Jefferson University

Explore further: Human brain has coping mechanism for dehydration

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scalping can raise ticket prices

11 hours ago

Scalping gets a bad rap. For years, artists and concert promoters have stigmatized ticket resale as a practice that unfairly hurts their own sales and forces fans to pay exorbitant prices for tickets to sold-out concerts. ...

Tropical Storm Genevieve forms in Eastern Pacific

13 hours ago

The seventh tropical depression of the Eastern Pacific Ocean formed and quickly ramped up to a tropical storm named "Genevieve." NOAA's GOES-West satellite captured an infrared image of the newborn storm ...

Recommended for you

Diet affects men's and women's gut microbes differently

4 hours ago

The microbes living in the guts of males and females react differently to diet, even when the diets are identical, according to a study by scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and six other institutions published ...

Researchers explore what happens when heart cells fail

5 hours ago

Through a grant from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation, Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Naomi Chesler will embark upon a new collaborative research project to better understand ...

Stem cells from nerves form teeth

7 hours ago

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have discovered that stem cells inside the soft tissues of the tooth come from an unexpected source, namely nerves. These findings are now being published in the journal Nature and co ...

User comments : 0