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Atactic scientists publish on Nature

Atactic scientists report in Nature ( December 23, 2004 ) and Nucleic Acids Research ( October 11, 2004 ) that they have developed a gene synthesis technology that enables high throughput, low cost synthesis of DNA of any user defined sequences.  This research was the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration involving Professors George Church ( Harvard University ), Erdogan Gulari ( University of Michigan ), and Xiaolian Gao ( University of Houston ); the technological development is to meet the increasing demand of gene/DNA sequences in this genomics and proteomics era. 

The scientists achieved simultaneously assembling of multiple genes and a record length of 14.6 kbp DNA from “all 21 genes that encode the proteins of the Escherichia coli 30S ribosomal subunit, and to optimize their translation efficiency in vitro through alteration of codon bias” as discussed in the Nature publication entitled “Accurate multiplex gene synthesis from programmable DNA microchips”.  The scientists see this is the starting point to making a complete functioning organism that can, for instance, produce energy, neutralize toxins, or make small molecules for the benefit of human health and quality of life.

If made the regular way, a typical gene can cost a customer several thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, Zhou said.  That is because the price for a base pair, the building block of long DNA and RNA, has been two dollar or more. Genes usually contain hundreds to tens of thousands of base pairs linked in a specific order. Thus, it is impossible to obtain a large number of genes or to achieve genome-scale DNA synthesis using the current technologies, which could cost millions of dollars and take years of time.

Atactic scientists and collaborators developed miniaturized synthesis device and technology – PicoArray, using digital technology similar to that used to make computer chips. On this thumb-size microfluidic mParafloTM device, they generated oligonucleotides (oligos), i.e., short fragments of DNA, in thousands of tiny reactions wells, and released the oligos synthesized from the PicoArray to assemble genes and long DNA sequences. 

The benefits of synthetic genes are tremendous.  Dr. Zhou says that “for instance, these products can be used to improve DNA sensor and diagnostics for comprehensive and more sensitive genetic analysis and one can prepare DNA fragments of defined lengths and sequences for CGH arrays (Comparative genomic hybridization) for systematic mapping of chromosomal imbalances and genetic analysis.  CGH arrays are widely used in molecular cytogenetics for cancer detection and prognosis.  The DNA products can be used to produce the blue prints for novel proteins.  Some of these proteins would be too toxic to obtain from natural sources but the synthetic version would be safer; some of these proteins have novel functions which do not exist in nature, which potentially can be new generations of vaccines or therapeutics.  For instance, there has been great interest in creating humanized antibodies for early detection of infection and as medicine.  For these applications, millions of new proteins and/or antibodies have to be tested.  Now we can possibly do it”.


About Atactic Technology Inc.

Atactic Technologies (www.atactictech.com) develops and markets DNA, RNA, and peptide microarrays and combinatorial products synthesized using miniaturized microfluidic devices.  Atactic Technologies enable customers’ genome-scale high throughput applications by providing simple, convenient, flexible, and low cost products.  Atactic’s diverse lines of products set up the standard of biotech industry for miniaturized and automated high throughput synthesis and assays.



Nature, 2004, 432 (7019) 0000-0000.

Nucleic Acids Research, 2004, 32 (18) 5409–5417.


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