Many of the great healthcare thinkers and bloggers wrapped up 2008 with end-of-year considerations of the important developments in their fields, and some looked ahead with predictions for 2009.
A nano-printing technique developed at MIT could dramatically lower the cost of nanomedical tools for diagnosis and experimentation, potentially making DNA analysis "as common and inexpensive as blood testing," according to an MIT news release. A team of scientists led by Francesco Stellacci describes the process to cheaply duplicate DNA data in an article in the Nano Letters Journal of the American Chemical Society titled Supramolecular Nanostamping: Using DNA as Movable Type.
One important prospective application is the DNA microarray, a silicon or glass chip
printed with up to 500,000 tiny dots. Each dot comprises multiple DNA
molecules of known sequence, a piece of an individual’s genetic
code. Scientists use DNA microarrays to analyze a person’s
DNA or messenger-RNA genetic code. Tests like the early
diagnosis of liver cancer, the genetic predisposition to certain diseases or the efficacy of some drug treatments are based on these analyses. The DNA dots in the image at right (click to enlarge), each only about 200 nanometers in diameter, were printed using the supramolecular nanostamping developed at MIT. Conventional microarrays require hundreds of steps to produce and cost $500 apiece. The new technique requires just three steps and could result in costs as low as $50 per array.