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Scientists develop biochip to help detect diseases, pollutants

SEOUL, March 30 — South Korean researchers said Wednesday that they have developed a highly sensitive biochip capable of precisely detecting diseases and environmental pollutants.

The new biochip has been tested to be 100,000 times more sensitive in detecting individual molecules of diseases and pollutants compared to conventional screening devices, said the state-run Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB), adding they can be used to speed up treatment and cleanup operations.

Biochips, usually made with metal nano dot arrays, work by attaching specific antibodies or receptors of diseases, viruses and pollutants on their surface. Such antibodies and receptors then respond to antigens and molecules of diseases and pollutants, telling the user of their existence.

Shin Yong-beom, who led the research, said the chip uses an "enzyme substrate reaction" system that provides a much finer picture of molecules.

"The superior sensitivity can have wide ranging applications since it can better detect cancer growth in the body, foot-and-mouth disease virus in animals and the existence of harmful materials in water and the earth," he said.

Besides enhancing sensitivity, the KRIBB team said that the nano dot array they created utilizes a so-called nanoimprint lithography manufacturing system that is much cheaper and easier to make than conventional electron beams that carve patterns into the metal array.

"The use of nanoimprint lithography that is just being developed around the world, highlights the commercial viability of the new biochip," Shin claimed.

The latest biochip, which took little over two years to make at a cost of 300 million won (US$ 270,000), has been published in the latest issue of the U.S.-based ACS Nano journal. (PNA/Yonhap) FFC/ebp

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