Researchers led by bioengineering professor Luke Lee have found a more efficient way to perform a fundamental polymerase chain reaction (PCR) genetics test. PCR tests make thousands, sometimes millions, of copies of a DNA sequence for use in diagnostic tests or research.
Traditional PCR tests have revolutionized biological science, but because the test requires repeated temperature changes to amplify the genetic sequence, they take hours and lots of energy to perform.
Lee and his team found that by heating electrons at the interface of thin films of gold and a DNA solution with LED lights, they can greatly decrease the amount of time and cost associated with running PCR tests — without losing resolution.
The team is calling the system a photonic PCR, and they are looking to integrate it with other diagnostic equipment they have developed, such as the ultrafast genomic diagnostic chip (a microfluidic lab on a chip), making the technology ready for field deployments.