IBM wants to read DNA ‘like a barcode’

A ‘genetic code reader’ could make personalised genome analysis much cheaper, according to IBM.

IBM scientists are working on ambitious research where nano-sized holes will be drilled into computer chips and DNA passed through to create a ‘genetic code reader’.

IBM said that experts from nanofabrication, microelectronics, physics and biology are working together to master a technique where a long DNA molecule passes through a three nanometer wide hole (a nanopore).

As the molecule passes through the nanopore one unit of DNA at a time, an electrical sensor can ‘read’ the DNA.

The challenge of the silicon-based ‘DNA Transistor’ would be to slow and control the motion of the DNA through the hole so the reader could decode what is inside it.

IBM claimed that if the project was successful it could make personalised genome analysis as cheap as $100 to $1,000, and compared it to the first ever sequencing done for the Human Genome Project, which cost $3 billion.

“The technologies that make reading DNA fast, cheap and widely available have the potential to revolutionise bio-medical research and herald an area of personalised medicine,” said IBM research scientist Gustavo Stolovitsky in a statement.

“Ultimately it could improve the quality of medical care by identifying patients who will gain the greatest benefit from a particular medicine and those who are at most at risk of adverse reaction,” he added.

Here is a video of the technique.