Mar.24, 2013

It sounds like science fiction but is real: San Francisco-based startup Cambrian Genomics is creating the world's first DNA laser printer.

Synthetic biology has the potential to create new organisms that could do an infinite number of things. But the cost of synthesizing DNA is currently prohibitively expensive. The cost of writing DNA, or DNA synthesis, is roughly $1 per base pair of DNA. The amount of base pairs in the human genome would cost approximately 3 billion to synthesise.

What if we could actually afford to 3D print a living creatures? In a talk at TED-like "Solve for X" Austen Heinz, CEO of Cambrian Genomics presented their solution: a new technique to synthesize DNA 10,000 times cheaper than existing technology.

One of the big challenges with DNA synthesis is error correction during fabrication, fabricating the correct sequence of A, T, G and Cs. This happens because the chemistries are on average 99% efficient.

Cambrian Genomics solves this problem by fabricating billions of strands at once, quickly (and cheaply) optically sequencing them and then selecting the correct DNA sequences using a fast moving laser. The etched DNA can then be injected into a cell.

Build cycle:

1. Microarray DNA synthesis
2. Release DNA
3. Microbeads capture DNA
4. Beads copy DNA
5. Attach beads to glass and read out code for quality control and create a quality sequence
6. Laser printing: use laser to recover the DNA (Laser pulse catapulting). Using a laser you can print up to 100 strands per second

This is a crucial scientific breakthrough. Because of the time and cost saved from the printer researchers will be able to generate larger quantities of DNA. It will lead to massive implications for the betterment of our planet and our health.

Watch below a great talk by biophysicist Reese Jones, showing the footage of world's first DNA laser printer at work.



Posted in 3D Printers


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