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Boston University biomedical engineers have devised a method for making future genome sequencing faster and cheaper by dramatically reducing the amount of DNA required, thus eliminating the expensive, time-consuming and error-prone step of DNA amplification.

In a study published in the Dec. 20 online edition of Nature Nanotechnology, a team led by Boston University Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Amit Meller details pioneering work in detecting DNA molecules as they pass through silicon nanopores. The technique uses electrical fields to feed long strands of DNA through four-nanometer-wide pores, much like threading a needle. The method uses sensitive electrical current measurements to detect single DNA molecules as they pass through the nanopores.

“The current study shows that we can detect a much smaller amount of DNA sample than previously reported,” said Meller. “When people start to implement genome sequencing or genome profiling using nanopores, they could use our nanopore capture approach to greatly reduce the number of copies used in those measurements.”