Research NewsBiotechnology

Weighing DNA for Fast Genetic Diagnosis

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Science  27 Mar 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5359, pp. 2044-2045
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5359.2044

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A fast new way to analyze gene sequences vaporizes the DNA and accelerates the molecules through a vacuum chamber; tiny differences in the time it takes the DNA fragments to reach the detector reveal small differences in their mass, and hence their sequence. Recent advances in a decade-old mass spectrometry technique called MALDI-TOF are now being used to analyze hundreds of DNA samples of up to 100 base pairs each in a matter of minutes. The technique could one day let doctors determine which disease genes a patient carries as quickly and accurately as they can now perform a cholesterol or blood chemistry test.