Nanotechnology Creates a Genetics Lab on a Microchip

A microchip equipped with 20 gel posts can perform 20 genetic tests using just one drop of blood. It may be the advance the new era of personalized medicine has been waiting for. 

What's the Latest Development?


Medical researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, have created nano-sized technology that can perform 20 DNA tests with a single drop of blood. Called the Domino, the new machine "employs polymerase chain reaction technology used to amplify and detect targeted sequences of DNA, but in a miniaturized form that fits on a plastic chip the size of two postage stamps." Each chip contains 20 gel posts—each the size of a pinhead—capable of identifying sequences of DNA with a single drop of blood. "That’s the real value proposition—being able to do multiple tests at the same time," said U of A researcher Jason Acker. 

What's the Big Idea?

By driving down prices, the new technology is expected to make individual DNA tests available to patient clinics for the first time, rather than being limited to research institutions. The portable box that analyzes the test results will cost about $5,000; each individual chip will cost a just a couple dollars to produce. Physicians expect widely-available DNA tests to usher in a new era of personalized medicine, where individual patients can be screened for predispositions to certain diseases and to determine which, if any, medications a patient will be resistant to. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why health care should start long before you reach the hospital

The issues that determine your health go way beyond seeing your doctor.

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The average American spends about 24 hours a year at the doctor's office.
  • What you do the other 364 days a year mostly determines your health.
  • Michael Dowling discusses Northwell's focus on environmental, social, economic and other social determinants of health.

Horseshoe crabs are captured for their blue blood. That practice will soon be over.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.

An Atlantic horseshoe crab in an aquarium. Photo: Domdomegg via Wikimedia Commons.
Surprising Science
  • Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
  • This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
  • Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
Keep reading Show less

5 short podcasts to boost your creativity and success

These quick bursts of inspiration will brighten your day in 10 minutes or less.

Personal Growth

Podcasts can educate us on a variety of topics, but they don't have to last an hour or more to have an impact on the way you perceive the world. Here are five podcasts that will boost your creativity and well-being in 10 minutes or less.

Keep reading Show less