Professor Xiaoliang Sunny Xie, Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, has led his team of researchers (Chenghang Zong and Alec Chapman) to produce a new method of DNA amplification that requires only one cell, and with 100% accuracy in mutation identification. Rarely in science, do we ever hear the term 100%, but that is exactly what MALBAC, which stands for Multiple Annealing and Looping-based Amplification Cycles signifies for the future of DNA reproduction. The promise of 100% accuracy is backed by the method of allowing cell division, which reduces the probability of DNA polymerase mistakes from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 10 billion. This number exceeds the number of bases in a DNA molecule, hence the amazing accuracy.

MALBAC solves an important problem posed by traditional methods of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which tends to over-amplify certain areas of the genome while under-amplifying other sections. Rather than using exponential amplification, MALBAC’s method is linear, and the ingenious design of having two ends of the DNA combine into a loop after amplification of half-products means the same sequence will not be over-amplified. MALBAC means scientists can obtain the genetic fingerprint of a cancer from single tumor cells (93% of the genome can be identified), as well as pin-pointing single-base mutations (detecting them 70% of the time).

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