New Imaging Technique That Uses Nanotechnology Helps Scientists Look At DNA Like Never Before


Scientists celebrated DNA Day on Thursday, April 25, the day when the helical structure of the DNA was first described.

Scientists Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, and Maurice Wilkins figured out that the structure of DNA is a double helix that could carry biological information, according to their paper that was published in 1953.

DNA is a molecule that contains the instructions an organism needs to develop, live, and reproduce. It contains the genetic information that will be passed on from one generation to the next in the process of heredity.

With technology nowadays, people can get a DNA test to find out if they are at risk of carrying any genetic diseases.

DNA Replication

Genetic disorders happen when abnormalities in the genome cause risks such as cancer. Scientists, however, are confused about where exactly the process goes wrong in the DNA replication. At first, scientists can see the DNA molecules but cannot tell the origin of each molecule in the sequence, thus, making it hard to map.

Luckily, the researchers at Bionano Genomics in San Diego developed a nanochannel technology that can see the molecule's arrangement of genomes one at a time simultaneously. Scientists want to see the regions of chromosomes to determine the order of the four bases or the order of these bases is what determines DNA's instructions, or genetic code and to see where DNA replication begins.

Optical Replication Mapping

By using Optical Replication Mapping, a high-throughput single-molecule approach based on Bionano Genomics genomic mapping technology, scientists placed individual DNA molecules on the narrow tubes of the nanochannel to straighten the strand.

The DNA molecule is colored blue. The green tick marks provide a unique fingerprint that tells where a human's origin is along the length of the chromosome, while the red tick marks are called "origins of replication" and where the DNA first unwinds. It indicates that the duplication process can start.

The team of David Gilbert, professor of Molecular Biology at Florida State University, and the team of Nick Rhind of the University of Massachusetts realized that this nanochannel technology can greatly affect the understanding of DNA replication which have been elusive.

"This nanochannel technology would allow us to conduct an experiment never attempted before: map all the locations where DNA replication begins simultaneously on millions of single DNA fibers," said Gilbert.

"To understand how the genetic material is duplicated it is essential to know where along the chromosome the process begins. That has been the greatest challenge to studying how the replication of our own chromosomes takes place and consequently what is going wrong in so many diseases, like cancer, in which replication goes awry."

This revolutionary technology is said to greatly affect the understanding of the replication of human chromosomes. It can also affect the process of chemotherapy for cancer patients.

According to Gilbert, they expect that the nanochannel technology can give a comprehensive test as to how the chemicals from chemotherapy drugs disrupt DNA application as they mostly work by attacking DNA when it replicates.

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