The Biochip and Advancements in Medical Treatment

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The Biochip and Advancements in Medical Treatment

Advances in microchips occur daily, but a recent advance in the area can only be called revolutionary. No, these are not a more advanced breed of thin silicon wafers, better known as computer chips. They are called biochips.

A blending of silicon technology with biology has produced a groundbreaking new technology. It can be used to tell how actively a gene works, whether it carries any mutations, and even aid in the human genome project, a long term project to map the entire human genome. The biochip is a square of glass about the area of a dime. It is carpeted with DNA probes. The probes are oligonucleotides, strands of DNA six to nine bases long. A long strand of DNA of an unknown sequence is to be tested to determine its sequence. First, it is fragmented and then washed over the chip. The fragments only attach to their complementary oligonucleotides on the chip. This is because bases only pair with complementary bases. Adenine bonds with thymine, and cytosine bonds with guanine. The next step is to analyze the reactions between the bases and determine the sequence of base pairs. This will give a clear picture of the formerly unknown DNA. The biochip uses fluorescent tags to determine where unknown fragments attach to their complementary strands on the chip. A microscope attached to a computer "reads" the patterns of fluorescence and gives the sequences of the unknown strand.

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, consists of various sequences of four organic compounds called bases, and some proteins. Abbreviated, the initials of the bases are A, C, G, and T. The building blocks of all life, they encode thousands of genes. The...

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...d over this chip, and the places where there are weak hybridizations, or base pair bonding, a less bright tag would indicate a genetic mutation. One would be able to determine the exact place on that person's gene where the person has a genetic abnormality.

An obvious use of the new technology will be as the earliest possible screening method for cancer. All genetic disorders could be tested for within a matter of minutes. With more advanced technology, such as what is happening with computer chips today, all genetic disorders could be checked for using but a single chip. Other chips could be used to determine how tall a person is to grow, whether they will bald earlier, or any number of applications. Obviously the technology will also be used in animal studies. The only limitation to the advancement of this innovative new chip is the imagination.
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