Nanotechnology DNA sensor promises benefits, possible downsides

We are only in the very early stages of nanotechnology bringing new abilities to DNA reading, but the latest such nanotech advance comes from New Mexico Tech profs Peng Zhang and Snezna Rogelj, described in an article by George Zamora:

NM Tech Researchers Develop Nanomaterial Bio-sensor

New Mexico Tech researchers have developed a highly sensitive nucleotide sensor that uses the special light-emitting properties of some nanoparticles in analyzing and identifying individual components of single strands of DNA and RNA…

“In a proof-of-concept experiment, the designed nucleotide sensor displays high sensitivity and specificity, with the capability of differentiating a single-base mismatch in a 26-base nucleotide target,” said Zhang. “This is an important finding in relation to the study and treatment of many genetic-based diseases, such as Sickle Cell Anemia, which are due to a single-base mismatch on just one base protein”…

Zhang said he and his fellow research team members are hoping to make the technology they have developed even more “useful and meaningful” by soon adapting it to detect and kill cancer cells.

Exciting work: an early nanomaterial used to detect a DNA difference and, with additional work, hoped to be able to kill cells. All of us concerned about cancer are pleased. Let’s also keep an eye on potential misuse of related sensing/killing abilities, which could be used — someday — in a weapon. I have not heard of plans for such a thing, but it’s an obvious idea and we should keep an eye out for it.

In addition to her interesting research, Prof. Snezna Rogelj has a sense of humor. —Christine

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