Manipulation of DNA molecules in solution has become an essential aspect of genetic analyses used for biomedical assays, the identification of hazardous bacterial agents, and in decoding the human genome. Currently, most of the steps involved in preparing a DNA sample for analysis are performed manually and are time, labor, and equipment intensive. These steps include extraction of the DNA from spores or cells, separation of the DNA from other particles and molecules in the solution (e.g. dust, smoke, cell/spore debris, and proteins), and separation of the DNA itself into strands of specific lengths. Dielectrophoresis (DEP), a phenomenon whereby polarizable particles move in response to a gradient in electric field, can be used to manipulate and separate DNA in an automated fashion, considerably reducing the time and expense involved in DNA analyses, as well as allowing for the miniaturization of DNA analysis instruments. These applications include direct transport of DNA, trapping of DNA to allow for its separation from other particles or molecules in the solution, and the separation of DNA into strands of varying lengths.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.