Quantum Mechanical Gene Sequencing?

November 20, 2009

Stuart Lindsay
Edward and Nadine Carson Professor of Physics and Chemistry
Director, Center for Single Molecule Biophysics, Biodesign Institute
Arizona State University


I believe that the future of nanoscale electronics lies in interfacing CMOS with chemistry and biochemistry. This talk will describe one such application รข€“ the sequencing of single DNA molecules by electron tunneling. Electron tunneling is exponentially sensitive to the position of atoms in a tunnel gap, giving it enormous potential for interfacing chemistry with electronics. However, it is also very sensitive to contamination and thermal fluctuations. To make it work in conditions compatible with biology, we are exploring schemes where reagents, chemically tethered to sensing electrodes, capture their targets by forming hydrogen bonds with them, clamping the target in place and completing an electron tunneling path through the target. The recent discovery that single walled carbon nanotubes can be used as conducting nanopores might enable a new type of rapid single molecule DNA sequencing.


Stuart Lindsay Stuart Lindsay, Ph.D., specializes in biophysics at the molecular level and scanning probe microscopy. Much of his work is aimed at speedier diagnosis and an understanding of the molecular basis of disease. He holds 29 US patents and is a technology advisor for the Atomic Force Microscope Division of Agilent Technologies. Agilent has acquired Molecular Imaging Corporation, which he co-founded in 1993. Dr. Lindsay's lab conducts innovative research in biological physics, molecular electronics, solar energy and condensed matter physics. The Lindsay Lab researchers are interested in how genes work, and study the way in which proteins change DNA structure to switch genes on and off. They are also interested in the chemistry and physics of the liquid-solid interface, and are trying to understand electrochemical and charge transfer processes at the single-molecule level. One project that Dr. Lindsay is pursuing is a new method of DNA sequencing to allow much faster and cheaper sequencing of individual human genomes. His radical approach involves electron tunneling through electrodes funtionalized with molecules that recognize the DNA bases.