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January 28, 2002
Development of World's First DNA Computer for Gene Analysis
High-speed fully-automated process from sample injection to reaction
enables quantitative gene expression profiling
DNA computer for gene analysis
DNA computer for gene analysis (development prototype)
* This news release is only for the Japanese market.
Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. (President Tsuyoshi Kikukawa) has announced the successful development of the world's first functional DNA computer for gene analysis, an area with enormous projected research- and analysis-related demand. By taking advantage of the computational abilities of DNA (which derive from the highly specific, base sequence-dependent chemical reactions between different strands), this computer achieves the practical combination of huge computing power and massively parallel processing. The research has been conducted jointly with Associate Professor Akira Suyama from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo and NovusGene Inc.*1 (Head Office: Hachioji, Tokyo; President and Representative Director: Toshio Sofuni). After the development prototype has undergone performance testing for gene expression profiling*2 using biological samples at NovusGene facilities, which is scheduled to start at the end of January 2002 and continue for most of the remainder of the year, the company plans to begin offering full-scale analytical services in 2003. In the future, the advantages of DNA computing technology-huge computational capacity, massively parallel processing capabilities and low energy consumption-are expected to make it a commonly applicable method in areas such as SNP*3 analysis and the detection of genetic diseases. The company therefore expects this advance to make a practical contribution in research and medical fields such as genetic diagnosis and drug discovery.
The company plans to publish the latest results of the performance testing at DNA8, the 8th International Meeting on DNA Based Computers, which is scheduled to be held at the University of Hokkaido later this year (June 10-13, 2002).
Main features
1.  Gene expression profiling realized with high precision, at high speed, and at low cost
2.  Versatile artificial DNA fragments*4 used in DNA reactions designed using special proprietary software
3.  Reliability of reactions improved through introduction of Magtration(R) technology *5, which separates molecules based on their magnetic beads
Development Background
The notion of DNA computing originated in 1994. Since then, most of the theoretical research in the area has been done in Europe and the United States. DNA computing relies on the particular physicochemical properties of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). DNA computers can perform calculations and measurements by taking advantage of the specific chemical reactions that take place between different DNA strands with complementary base-pair sequences. The nature of this process gives a DNA computer a number of useful properties: (1) massively parallel processing capabilities, (2) a huge memory capacity, and-particularly applicable in genomic analysis-(3) the ability to perform a variety of gene diagnostics and gene analysis of cells with high precision, at high speed, and at low cost, depending on the sample used (this derives from the fact that the DNA itself provides both the input and output data for the computational calculations).
Olympus has been involved with R&D in this field from an early stage. On February 15, 2001, the company established an R&D-based joint venture, NovusGene Inc., with Mitsui Knowledge Industry Co., Ltd. with the objective of providing a variety of genetic analytical services. Based on technical support provided by Associate Professor Akira Suyama, a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of NovusGene, this joint venture has conducted research into DNA computing.
Based on the results of the Human Genome Project, which is now almost complete, and the startling progress being made in the identification and functional analysis of human genes (said to number between 30,000 and 40,000), it is projected that huge genetic testing-related demand will be generated as the results of research in this field gradually produce new generations of tailor-made medicines. Olympus aims to lead the world in the development of a practical DNA computer that can be adapted for gene analysis purposes.
Details of Main Features
1.  High-precision, high-speed, low-cost gene expression profiling.
Through the complete automation of all processes from sample injection to the completion of quantitative reactions, the time required has been greatly shortened, to just six hours. By comparison, the conventional manual process based on the use of microarrays typically takes three days. Fitted with a maximum of 96 wells, each of which can contain up to 100 different DNA strands with abilities to bind to specific DNA sequences, the computer enables a large number of high-precision calculations to be performed simultaneously.
2.  Versatile artificial DNA fragments for reactions designed using special software.
The artificial DNA fragments that make up the memory of the DNA computer (that is, the medium that allows computational calculations to be performed) are designed using special proprietary software so that they will have regular physicochemical properties and not interfere each other. Since this makes the so-called hybridization process extremely precise, changes can be made to the computing program performed depending on the composition of the DNA fragments chosen. This makes the computer highly versatile, and capable of being optimized for a wide range of analytical techniques applicable to different diseases, or for the analysis of the genomes of various organisms.
3.  Reliability of reactions improved through introduction of Magtration(R) technology.
The reliability of the reactions that underpin the computational abilities of the computer has been greatly improved through the use within the system of Magtration(R) technology, which enables precise control of magnetic beads using specially designed disposable tips and magnets. This technology is owned by Precision System Science Co., Ltd. (Head Office: Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture; President: Hideji Tajima), a Japanese company which has credentials for the field of genomic analysis.
Technical Notes
*1  NovusGene Inc.
The paid-in capital of NovusGene has been provided by three companies: Olympus Optical Co., Ltd., Mitsui Knowledge Industry Co., Ltd., and Mitsui & Co., Ltd.
*2  Gene expression profiling
A type of analysis that measures the variety and amounts within a cell of mRNA (messenger RNA), a type of RNA that transmits the information encoded within the DNA to allow the cell to make specific proteins. The results of this analysis shed light on gene function and role.
*3  SNP
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) is a minor genomic difference among lives of the same species refers to differences of a single base found at every 300-500 bases on a genomic DNA. The study of such differences within the human population is expected to yield genetic markers that could signal a person's susceptibility to a certain disease, or else provide clues as to the likely response to a drug and its possible side-effect profile.
*4  Artificial DNA fragments
Synthetic oligo DNA fragments are short DNA of around 20 bases in length that are designed to have regular physicochemical properties and perfect specificity.
*5  Magtration(R) technology
This technology works by capturing DNA using magnetic microparticles and then controlling these particles via their magnetic beads so that the DNA can be separated from a solution. This permits the extraction of specific DNA, while at the same time allowing any surplus DNA fragments to be recovered at high levels of purity.
Construction of DNA Computer for Gene Analysis
The computer has a hybrid form and consists of two sections (molecular and electronic), both of which perform computational calculations. This distribution of computational functions helps to raise the overall speed of the process.
Construction of DNA Computer for Gene Analysis
Note: Magtration(R) technology is a registered trademark of Precision System Science Co., Ltd.
*Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. was changed to OLYMPUS CORPORATION as of October 1, 2003.
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