Molecular biologists and geneticists depend on the ability of DNA synthesizers to produce man-made oligonucleotides (oligos) of defined sequence for a variety of genetic studies, from the isolation of genes not clonable by other techniques to the diagnosis of mutations responsible for human genetic diseases. Research facilities specializing in recombinant DNA techniques typically own or have access to high-throughput DNA synthesizers, which are capable of simultaneously manufacturing up to 15 micromoles (one millionth of a mole) of four independently programmed DNA or RNA sequences.

Individual laboratories, however, do not need the full range of capabilities of these high-throughput instruments, and often cannot afford their cost. As a result, these labs have traditionally relied on the services of a central DNA synthesis facility or have purchased oligos on a custom basis from commercial suppliers.

But in recent years a new class of low-cost, high-speed DNA synthesizers has been developed. These new...

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