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Graphene Sequences DNA

Research conducted at the Australian Synchrotron has shown that graphene – a one-atom thick sheet of hexagonally arranged carbon – can detect the four nucleotides in DNA. The discovery could revolutionise medical research and testing through the development of a technique for real-time, high throughput DNA sequencing.

A unique combination of the four nucleotides – cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine – makes up the individual DNA sequence of a gene. “We found that each nucleobase influenced the electronic structure of graphene in a measurably different way,” said PhD student Nikolai Dontschuk of the University of Melbourne.

“When used in conjunction with a nanopore, a single DNA molecule would pass through the graphene-based electrical sensor – like a single string of beads passing through one section of tiny chicken wire – enabling real-time, high-throughput sequencing of a single DNA molecule.”

The research team conducted the first experiments to combine electrical measurements of graphene-based field effect transistors with photoemission spectroscopy at the Synchrotron’s soft X-ray spectroscopy beamline. After comparing the experimental and synchrotron results, the team predicted that single-molecule sensing of guanine, cytosine and thymine could be achieved by bulk graphene devices.

The results have been published in Nature Communications.