New Patent Set to Change the Way We Detect DNA and Sources of Diseases


Ryann Monahan, ECE ILLINOIS

A new technology developed by ECE ILLINOIS professor Jean-Pierre Leburton provides the technological ingredients for the development of nanoscale and personal medicine in the search for cancer cures.

Jean-Pierre Leburton
Jean-Pierre Leburton
Leburton was recently awarded a patent for his invention of nanoelectronic biosensors for DNA molecular structure detection. The innovation allows for rapidly identifying DNA malformation as well as sequencing the human genome in a cost-effective manner, which is set to revolutionize modern medicine.

“The source of various cancers can be traced in multiple ways affecting the DNA molecule that our invention can detect quickly, reliably, and cheaply,” Leburton said.

Currently, DNA sequencing is achieved by biochemical techniques that typically require large laboratory facilities. Leburton’s innovation eliminates that roadblock. It is based on nanoelectronic technology that was successful in enabling system miniaturization, efficiency, and new information processing capabilities.

In his approach, Leburton uses mono-atomically thin materials known as two-dimensional (2D) semiconductors such as graphene or transition-metal-dichalcogenides. These materials are electrically sensitive to the DNA structure to detect individual nucleotide, DNA damages resulting from nucleotide removal, or phenomena known as methylation that are causes for cancer.

This unique technique senses DNA molecules by threading them through an electrically active solid-state nanopore membrane made of a constricted layer of 2D materials, the electrical sensitivity of which can be easily tuned by both shaping its geometry and modulating its conductance by means of an electric gate integrated in the membrane.

“It opens the door to personalized medicine, where everybody could in principle own their personal medical kit to check their DNA for possible sources of diseases,” Leburton explained.

In the meantime, Leburton and his team are pursuing their research toward new approaches to refine bio-molecular detection by implementing their technique for exploitation in new kinds of applications such as the storage of big data in DNA molecules.

Leburton is affiliated with the MNTL. His work was supported by Oxford Nanopore Technologies